As our dogs’ are DNA con­trib­u­tors to genetic stud­ies, we found this arti­cle about pure­bred dogs and their con­tri­bu­tion to genetic stud­ies very inter­est­ing and inform­ing. (As a dog owner, you may, too!) Breed­ers are often reviled these days, but you should know, seri­ous work is being per­formed to iden­tify and elim­i­nate bad genes from breeds and lines with test­ing. Genetic tests are being used by con­sci­en­tious breed­ers to breed health­ier dogs, whose off­spring may lead to health­ier pets for all some­day. And what you may not know is that quite a bit of this research is qui­etly going on, at the expense of breed­ers, breed clubs, and universities.

First, the phrase pure­bred is not only off­set­ting, but also archaic from Vic­to­rian times. What breed­ers actu­ally do is trait breed or selec­tively breed. There is no pure in a breed, just the expres­sion or man­i­fes­ta­tion of desired traits. The trick is to bal­ance desired traits with health, form, and func­tion. a fur­ther com­pli­ca­tion is the fact phys­i­cal and tem­pera­men­tal traits are inter­twined. The Russ­ian Sil­ver Fox study is a fas­ci­nat­ing exam­ple of this. Here’s a quick syn­op­sis at Scienceblogs.org – Mon­day Pets: The Russ­ian Fox Study by Dr. Jason G. Gold­man.

Dog breed­ers should ask them­selves: What is the pur­pose of a breed? What is its mis­sion state­ment and how can I cre­ate a healthy exam­ple of that? Unfor­tu­nately, too many breed­ers never ask them­selves these ques­tions and are only inter­ested in profit or expe­ri­enc­ing a lit­ter of pup­pies, and too many buy­ers are only inter­ested in the nov­elty of the breed, don’t edu­cate them­selves, then get upset when they have a sick dog to care for or one they decide to abandon.

So it’s com­fort­ing to read an arti­cle detail­ing work on the improve­ment of canine genet­ics. (Work, which is also a stepping-stone to solv­ing human health issues, too.) The pos­si­bil­ity of gene ther­apy is excit­ing, but so is the con­tin­u­ous iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of genetic defects. These new genetic tests allow the con­sci­en­tious breeder to con­tinue to improve their lines, and is a way for the savvy buyer to deter­mine whether a line is being bred for health, as well as, desir­able breed traits.

Now onto the article!

A geneticist’s best friend – printed Sep­tem­ber 19, 2009 by The Aus­tralian.

This arti­cle describes on-going research at Bal­lard Labs at The Uni­ver­sity of New South Wales in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia. The stud­ies use genetic data col­lected from pedi­greed dogs to find solu­tions for both canine and, ulti­mately, human afflictions.

Explain­ing the impor­tance of using a spe­cific breed of dog, in this case the Aus­tralian Cat­tle Dog, to pin­point genetic dis­or­ders, it high­lights how this study has already iso­lated a defec­tive gene for a type of blind­ness in both canines and humans.

Curi­ous about the total num­ber of canine genetic dis­or­ders found world-wide? Check cur­rent results at this site: OMIA – Online Mendelian Inher­i­tance in Ani­mals. As of this blog post­ing, 615 canine dis­or­ders have been found, 327 of which have poten­tial as mod­els for human dis­ease. Only inter­ested in avail­able tests for a spe­cific canine dis­ease or breed? Pop over to Pen­nVet and per­form a quick search.

In the US, the National Human Genome Research Cen­ter Insti­tute, Dog Genome Project is a major researcher of canine genet­ics. To learn more about the project, click Dog Genome Project for Own­ers.

Want to par­tic­i­pate? As long as your dog is AKC reg­is­tered, he/she can poten­tially con­tribute to the Dog Genome Project, even if they are spayed or neutered. Why must they be AKC reg­is­tered? To prove your dog comes from an estab­lished gene pool with trace­able ances­tors. The researchers could care less that your dog has only titled in Snor­ing and Trash Can Dump­ing! :-)

How is DNA col­lected for these genetic stud­ies? Our guys have con­tributed to stud­ies with blood sam­ples (the gold stan­dard) and cheek swabs. So you can see, no scary or objec­tion­able lab dis­sec­tion work is needed for these types of stud­ies. It’s no worse than get­ting blood drawn for rou­tine health lab work. (Which it tech­ni­cally is, only on a very large, very grand scale!) For a blood draw, expect to involve your vet.

Click on the link below for a list of AKC Reg­is­tered and Foun­da­tion Stock Ser­vice Breeds the NHGRI needs for its stud­ies. (Already checked for you. French Bull­dogs are on the list!)
NHGRI Dog Genome Project Needed Breeds

Still inter­ested in par­tic­i­pat­ing? More details from the Dog Genome Project site:

If you are inter­ested in hav­ing your pedi­greed dog par­tic­i­pate in our research stud­ies, please send an email inquiry to: [email protected]. Please pro­vide your name, your dog’s reg­is­tered name, your dog’s breed, any diag­nosed dis­eases your dog has, age of your dog, and the best way to con­tact you.

Now your pooch will have brag­ging rights to: Snor­ing, Trash Can Dump­ing, and Breed Bet­ter­ment and Improve­ment! Not bad for a day’s work. :-)