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Illinois study seeking biomarkers of canine diabetes, other diseases

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- Even as the genetic blueprint for Shadow the poodle was being completed in Maryland, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign had been engaged in a long-term study that they hope will add functional gene information to the dog genome as well as benefit both canine and human health.

The still-in-progress Illinois study, in which researchers are measuring the effects of diet on gene expression in both weanling and geriatric dogs, is described in a paper in the October issue of the Journal of Nutrition. The scientists use their study as an example of how the use of emerging molecular tools, in general, will unlock the functional aspects of the genes being mapped in a variety of genomes.

"Genome sequencing allows us to understand health across animals," said Lawrence B. Schook, a professor of animal sciences and veterinary pathobiology at Illinois. "Dogs, like humans, get diseases associated with lifestyles. Thus not exercising and over-eating can result in obesity and diabetes. Information about human diseases can be used to treat dogs, and understanding dog diseases can be used to treat humans."

The dog-human bond goes deeper than mutual admiration. In a paper published last month in Science, researchers at the Institute for Genomic Research in Maryland scientists reported that their genome map of Shadow reveals 18,473 genes that correspond to the 24,567 annotated human genes. They also noted that the dog's genome had more genetic similarities with humans than does the mouse -- the most-often used mammal for human health studies.

Schook and colleagues say in their paper that the cat-genome map available to date is even more similar to humans genetically than the dog. To date, Schook said, 263 feline and 451 canine genetic diseases have been identified.

Causes for diseases associated with a single gene can be uncovered with current biological techniques, Schook said, but finding the source
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Contact: Jim Barlow
jebarlow@uiuc.edu
217-333-5802
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
7-Oct-2003


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