Some dogs are just slobber monsters, especially the St. Bernard. No matter how much you don’t want a doggy kiss, they’re willing to give you a big wet one. While dog kisses can be endearing and greatly appreciated when you’re getting home from work or vacation, they might be have more power behind them than just giving you a warm, fuzzy feeling.
In an effort to better comprehend why humans and pets become ill, the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) came together to create the Canine Hereditary Cancer Consortium. To begin their research, they have received samples from volunteer pet owners, which include saliva, blood and tumors. Oncologists will use these samples to study canine cancer and maybe even figure out what causes cancer in people. While dog slobber might not necessarily become a part of treating cancer, it’s hoped that it will at least point experts in the right direction.
So why are dogs often used as models for studying human diseases?
In a study by Marlon R. Schneider, et al., which was published in Human Molecular Genetics, canine embryo-derived stem cells are looked to as models for human diseases. The reason being is that dogs present with similar illnesses. Dogs have 400 known hereditary canine diseases and more than 200 of them can be equated to a human disease. For example, humans and dogs share muscular dystrophy, prostate cancer, cardiomyopathies, asthma, diabetes, cancer, epilepsy, etc.
In certain respects, the more we learn about dogs, the more we learn about ourselves. While humans and dogs have shared a tight knit bond since the beginning of humanity, there are even closer bonds that we share on a physiological level.
The TGen and VARI’s cancer research is funded by a 2-year, $4.3 million federal stimulus grant, and this opportunity has enabled them to partner with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the University of Pennsylvania, Michigan State University and various dog breeders and veterinarians. Grant money for public-private programs has also been dispersed to PetSmart and Hill’s Pet Nutrition. Only time will tell what interesting statistics or results will be uncovered during this study period.