Spina bifida is a neural tube birth defect where the baby’s backbone and its surrounding membranes fail to properly develop. Researchers found one genetic mutation in Weimaraners that causes spina bifida, which is also present in humans, but not found in any other dog species.
Researchers using data from terriers have found an area on the canine chromosome 8 that is associated with glaucoma. This same chromosome has been associated with glaucoma in humans, providing hope that when the exact gene and mutation are identified in the terriers, they will match a similar gene and mutation in humans. Such a discovery would open the door to more effective therapies so that dogs and people could keep their precious sense of sight intact.
Great Danes are one of the best canine models for human cancer research because they have the highest chance of developing a malignancy in their lifetime. Compared to lab rats and mice, Great Danes are better models for human disease because they are genetically more similar. All too often, treatments that have worked in lab mice haven’t worked when we’ve taken them to human clinical trials. [The canine] model is much closer to human disease.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles. Working with narcoleptic Doberman Pinschers, researchers discovered that canine narcolepsy is inherited directly from the parents and is an autosomal recessive trait, meaning both parents must pass down the mutated gene for the offspring to develop the disorder. Although there is not yet a cure for human narcolepsy the Doberman Pinscher may provide an important clue to understanding why they both fell asleep…on and off the job.
Basset Hounds may replace the Arabian horse model for SCID research in children. The main reason is that the Hounds have the gene defect that’s most commonly involved with SCID in children. Simply put, the defect matches up, and this is important when considering potential animal models. Besides the fact that Hounds are genetically similar to children in terms of the gene that expresses SCID, they also cost less to feed, have shorter gestation periods, and produce more offspring per year than Arabian horses.
The cause of DMD, a degenerative disorder that affects nearly 1 in 3,500 male babies, has been attributed to a lack of dystrophin protein. Due to the dystrophin gene’s location on the X chromosome, males, who need only one copy of the gene to contract DMD, are twice as likely to be diagnosed with it as females. Despite valiant efforts, no cure for DMD currently exists. Scientists now think that hope may lie within a common friend – the golden retriever.