Doggies in the gene pool

– – Doggies in the gene pool

Article published Sunday, December 18, 2005

Scientists were barking up the right tree when they began writing the genetic biography of man’s best friend. The result, unleashed a few days ago, was the complete sequence of the dog genome – the full set of genes that make-up Canis familiaris.

The book of the dog is for-scientists-only, its pages devoted to the exact order of chemical units in the dog’s 19,300 genes.

However, it may teach science new tricks that could benefit both the 65 million pet dogs in the United States and their masters.

Dogs and people share many of the same genes, and get many of the same diseases. The genome sequence should help identify genes that make both dogs and people vulnerable to cancer, heart disease, diabetes, epilepsy, and other disorders.

The sequence will open new chapters in the dog’s loyal service to medicine. Dogs long have been our surrogates in medical research.

They helped scientists sniff out insulin, organ transplantation, new drugs, and other medical innovations. Many of those treatments now find use in veterinary medicine and benefit dogs.

Future generations of dogs also may benefit. Dog breeders will use the genetic blueprint to screen for genes involved in hip dysplasia, cataracts, and other conditions before mating. In that way, the frailties that diminish the lives of dogs may disappear.

People and dogs already have traveled an immense journey together. It started when humans domesticated gray wolves 100,000 years ago. Selective breeding over the centuries produced the breeds that provide humans with unquestioned love, friendship, and companionship.

That relationship is getting closer.

People increasingly regard dogs and other pets as extended family members. Young professionals and empty nesters substitute pets for kids.

Scientists have the genetic blueprints for more than 180 organisms, ranging from humans to bacteria. The canine sequence, however, may be closest to the hearts of humans.

Every dog will have its day, at least until scientists finish the genetic blueprint of that great rival for the human heart – Felis catus.

The Toledo Times ®

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The Dog and Its Genome

The Dog and Its Genome
by Urs Giger (Editor), Elaine A. Ostrander (Editor), Kerstin Lindblad-Toh (Editor)

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