Thursday, October 04, 2007

Dog Genome Project

The Broad Institute, which was created in 2003, aspires to construct new powerful tools for genomic medicine. It is a collaborative project between MIT and Harvard, and the Institute's researchers are involved in the Dog Genome Sequencing Project. Here is a brief description of that project from their website:

The genome of the domesticated dog, a close evolutionary relation to human, is a powerful new tool for understanding the human genome. Comparison of the dog with human and other mammals reveals key information about the structure and evolution of genes and genomes. The unique breeding history of dogs, with their extraordinary behavioral and physical diversity, offers the opportunity to find important genes underlying diseases shared between dogs and humans, such as cancer, diabetes and epilepsy.

The latest issue of Nature has an interesting News item on the Institute's research entitled "Dogs help sniff out genes". Here is a brief excerpt:

Man's best friend is becoming the geneticist's too. Researchers have made good on the dog genome's promise: a quick-and-dirty way to find the genes responsible for physical traits using just a couple of dozen pooches and a gene chip.

Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, of the Broad Institute of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and her colleagues have devised a method of locating the genes responsible for specific traits that requires as few as 10 animals with the feature and 10 without — as long as they are all the same breed. The team has also identified the genes that give the Rhodesian ridgeback breed its ridge but additionally predispose the dogs to a crippling developmental disease called dermoid sinus. Such feats were predicted when Lindblad-Toh's team mapped the dog genome but this is the first time they have been achieved.

....Dogs lacking the duplication of genes are unridged; those with one copy have a normal ridge; but having two copies also carries an 80% risk of dermoid sinus. The mechanism paves the way for geneticists to use the dog genome to help identify genes involved in disorders such as diabetes that also affect humans.