Dog genome sequenced

Dr. Ewen Kirkness and Shadow. Photo courtesy of The Institute for Genomic Research.

Dr. Craig Venter has ushered his 9-year-old black poodle, Shadow, into the scientific limelight. Venter, who sequenced the human genome using his own DNA, has used his dog for a research project that sequenced the canine genome.

The research project, published in the Sept. 26 edition of Science, was led by Ewen Kirkness, PhD, investigator at The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR). A TIGR release stated that “more than 25 percent or 650 million base pairs of DNA overlap between human and dog. The sequence data was used to identify an equivalent dog gene for 75 percent of known human genes.”

According to a Sept. 26 article, the new sequence shows that dogs and humans have 18,473 genes in common. This research can aid scientists in identifying the relationship between human genes and diseases such as cancer and epilepsy.

"Most human diseases have canine counterparts, and dogs are closer to humans in size, lifestyle and lifespan than rodents," said geneticist Gregory Acland of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, in the Nature article.

The isolated gene pools found in pedigreed canines give researchers unique insight into disease traits.

"This, together with the fact that almost any two dogs can be bred to give a fertile offspring, makes the animal a very powerful tool to study genes that are responsible for diseases and traits," Kirkness said, in a BBC News Online article.

The J. Craig Venter Science Foundation funded the study. You can read detailed information about the research at the TIGR website and The Center for the Advancement of Genomics website.

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