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April 27, 2020 | News

First breakthrough with the UK’s largest canine genome bank

First breakthrough with the UK’s largest canine genome bank

Together for Animal’s member the Animal Health Trust (AHT) is celebrating the discovery of the first disease mutation found thanks to its Give a Dog a Genome project.

Launched in 2016, Give a Dog a Genome is a pioneering project that is making the genetic mutation-finding process quicker and more efficient by creating a ‘canine genome bank’. This bank enables the AHT to develop DNA tests and help even more dogs that could otherwise have been affected by inherited disease.

To date, the project has sequenced the entire genomes of 89 dogs from 77 different breeds. Once a harmful mutation is identified, the team of canine geneticists at the AHT can develop a DNA test that is used to identify if a dog is affected, a carrier or clear of a specific mutation. These DNA tests are then made available by the AHT, with all profits re-invested into research to help more dogs.

Recently the AHT team made the first mutation discovery as a direct result of the Give a Dog a Genome project, which is for a disease known as BBS2-PRA. This disease affects Shetland Sheepdogs and causes blindness, as well as a range of physical characteristics including an upturned nose, an unusual coat texture and dental defects.

Thanks to the Give a Dog a Genome DNA database, the AHT team were able to compare the DNA of just one Shetland Sheepdog with this form of PRA, with the genomes of other dogs to successfully identify the mutation that causes this type of PRA in the breed. The team has also developed a DNA test which will help enable Shetland Sheepdog breeders to eradicate the disease from the breed.

Dr Cathryn Mellersh, Head of Canine Genetics at the AHT commented: “It is always exciting to discover a new mutation that causes an inherited disease in dogs, because it provides a means for breeders to reduce the frequency of the mutation in future generations of dogs and, very importantly, to avoid breeding clinically affected dogs.”

The AHT hopes this success story is the first of many to arise from Give a Dog a Genome, now that all the genomes have been sequenced!

Funds raised by Together for Animals supports AHT’s vital work in the development of prevention and treatment for diseases and injuries in cats, dogs and horses.