Melbourne researchers are examining the DNA of dogs in a research project aiming at determining the genetic causes of common pet diseases and to provide a model for combating diseases such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis in humans.
They are looking for genetic patterns that predispose some dogs to conditions similar to diseases found in humans. By identifying genetic triggers for disease in dogs, the researchers could offer hope of cures for humans.
Dogs are ideal research subjects for genetic studies because inbreeding has limited their genetic variability.
Researchers, led by Dr Steven Holloway of the University of Melbourne’s faculty of veterinary science, have already tested the DNA of 100 Melbourne dogs with different veterinary problems.
But more dogs are needed to increase the size of the study group.
According to Dr Holloway, if they can determine the genetic elements responsible for auto-immunity we may be better able to study how to prevent or treat these illnesses.
However dog lovers believe that, if doctors can help both dogs and humans as a result of this research, then everyone win.