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First genetic comparison of purebred domestic dogs produces surprises

The first detailed genetic comparison of purebred domestic dogs promises to rewrite the textbooks with new information about breed classification and insights that may improve canine health by boosting understanding of the more than 350 inherited disorders, including cancer, heart disease, epilepsy, blindness and deafness, which affect dogs.

In analyzing and carefully comparing the genetic information from dogs representing 85 breeds, the researchers were surprised to discover previously unappreciated relationships between existing breeds and new details that suggest completely unexpected breeds to be among the most ancient descendents of dogs' wolf-like ancestors.

The researchers, led by Elaine A. Ostrander and Howard Hughes Medical Institute researcher Leonid Kruglyak, reported their findings in an article published in the May 21, 2004, issue of the journal Science. Kruglyak and Ostrander are at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Other co-authors are from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri.

"In all the research on dogs, the question comes up over and over how modern breeds are related to one another genetically," said Ostrander, whose research has concentrated on using the power of genetics to understand canine diseases. "The answer to this question has important implications for trying to identify disease genes, because if we know a subset of breeds that share a common lineage, then we know to group them together when we're working on a particular disease. For example, if I'm studying lymphoma, and I know that a subset of Asian breeds shares a common lineage, I could group data from those breeds together, rather than considering them separately, in order to gain more statistical power," she said.

For their analyses, the researchers obtained the help of the American Kennel Club (AKC) and dog breeders across the country to acquire cheek-
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Contact: Jim Keeley
keeleyj@hhmi.org
301-215-8858
Howard Hughes Medical Institute
20-May-2004


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