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Many scientists believe the dog genome holds information that will benefit human health

A new genetic analysis of man's best friend could help scientists explain why a border collie has knack for herding or why poodles sport a curly coat. In the May 21 issue of Science, researchers at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center report the first extensive genetic comparison of domestic dog breeds.

The study, led by Fred Hutchinson researchers Drs. Elaine Ostrander, Leonid Krugylak and graduate student Heidi Parker, revealed distinct DNA blueprints for each of the 85 varieties of purebreds that were analyzed as well as similarities between certain breeds. The researchers expect that understanding these genetic relationships will help them uncover the genes responsible for the physical features and behaviors unique to each breed as well as the diseases to which they are commonly susceptible, such as cancer, deafness, blindness, heart disease and hip dysplasia.

The findings also have generated excitement among those who study diseases of the human animal. Because at least half of the more than 300 inherited canine disorders-including a number of cancers-resemble specific diseases of man, many scientists believe that the dog genome holds a wealth of information that will benefit human health.

Ostrander, head of the dog genome project at Fred Hutchinson, was among the first to appreciate the dog's potential as a model system for gene hunting.

"This study helps us understand the genetic relationships between breeds, a finding that will facilitate our efforts to map disease genes and genes for what are known as complex traits, which result from the interaction of multiple genes," she said. "This analysis provides us with the blueprint."

The dog is a geneticist's dream because each pure breed represents a group of genetically similar animals that have descended from only a few ancestors.

"Most breeds have been artificially created by man," said Parker. "Although all are members of the same species, this selective breeding has resulte
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Contact: Susan Edmonds
sedmonds@fhcrc.org
206-667-2896
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
20-May-2004


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