An international consortium led by researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard announced the completion of the dog genome sequence. Their report includes an analysis of the sequence and suggests how the data may help improve the health of humans as well as dogs. The researchers first sequenced the DNA of a female boxer named Tasha. The boxer was chosen as the reference dog sequence partly because it has relatively little variation in its genome. The researchers also examined genomes of 10 other dog breeds as well as other canine species such as the gray wolf and coyote.
Humans have been domesticating dogs for nearly 100,000 years, producing a wide variety of breeds that range from the tiny Chihuahuas to the large Great Danes. Despite their different appearances, dogs share large segments of their genomes. This means that genetic tools created for use with one breed of dog will often work for other breeds as well. As a result of inbreeding, many breeds of dogs are at high risk for genetic diseases including cancers, heart disease, blindness, deafness and hip dysplasia. Many of these diseases share similarities with their human counterparts. This makes dogs an important model for studying human disease. The sequence of the dog genome is significant not only because of its potential to aid in the understanding of human disease but also because it will lead to better treatments for diseases that affect our loyal animal companions.
Lindblad-Toh, K., Wade, C.M., Mikkelsen, T.S., Karlsson, E.K., et al. Genome sequence, comparative analysis and haplotype structure of the domestic dog. Nature, 438: 803-819. 2005. [PubMed]
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Last Reviewed: August 15, 2013