Spina bifida is a neural tube birth defect where the baby’s backbone and its surrounding membranes fail to properly develop. About four babies in the United States are born with spina bifida each day. Scientists used Weimaraners (Canis lupus familiaris) to find genetic mutations that cause spina bifida. Interestingly, the samples were taken from household pets instead of laboratory animals. Researchers found one mutation in Weimaraners which is also present in humans, but not found in any other dog species. Scientists believe that this mutation could be one of many that causes spina bifida. They hope to better understand the condition by learning more about the genetic causes behind it.
[“CT image demonstrating spina bifida occulta (dashed arrow)” by Carstensen, Al-Harbi, Urbain, Belhocine (Unedited). License: CC BY 2.0]