Genetic Studies

History of dogs

The history of domestic dogs can be traced back 15,000 years to the grey wolf, and possibly as far back as 100,000 years. Dogs have evolved with humans, sharing living space and food sources. In recent centuries humans have selectively bred dogs creating a wide range of breeds.

Some breeds are derived from a small number of founders giving them a higher chance of getting certain diseases. The often well-kept breeding records for dogs make them a good model for certain genetically inherited diseases found in humans.

Genetic mapping of the dog makes it possibly to identify genes responsible for certain diseases and traits. This has important consequences for human and companion animal health.

Genetic disorders in dogs

Many purebred domestic dog breeds have a limited genetic pool because of the nature of pedigree breeding. As a consequence of stringent breeding programs and population bottlenecks (e.g. during the world wars), many dog breeds shown a high prevalence of specific diseases related to genetic abnormalities.

Over 360 genetic disorders have been described in dogs, which are strongly breed-specific. At least half of these disorders resemble specific human disorders. Researchers have identified mutations in genes underlying around 25 diseases, and found similar patterns between humans and dogs. Cancer, deafness, heart disease, blindness, and epilepsy are among the many disease well suited for genetic mapping in dogs.

Research on the genetic makeup of purebred dogs is generating genetic markers for dog diseases that will help reduce the high level of inherited canine disease in purebred dogs, and also give us a better understanding of human diseases. These studies help unravel genetic diseases such as cancer, epilepsy, cardiovascular troubles, or inflammatory disorders as diabetes or thyroid unbalance in both dogs and humans.

Deafness in cattle dogs

In Australia dog geneticists at the University of NSW are tracking genes causing a specific type of deafness in people and Australian cattle dogs. They are looking at whether the genes affecting the amount of black patches in cattle dogs influence hereditary deafness.

By identifying the genes responsible for the condition in dogs the team will better understand the biology of the disorder to help humans. They also plan to develop genetic tests that detect carriers in dogs so breeders can eliminate the problem in future generations.



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