Cat genome sequencing might seem a frivolous or unimportant thing, but it’s actually already benefiting not only feline health in real time, but human health as well. Ten cats who had different diseases or traits that could be inherited were whole genome sequenced to study mutations that might be responsible for the conditions, yielding results that were available to the entire research community. Last year scientists found clues to the cause and possible ideas for treatment for two human eye diseases with analogous conditions in cats, retinitis pigmentosa and Leber’s Congenital Amaurosis, by studying the genome of cats who had the condition.
Ten cats with different diseases and traits that could be inherited were whole genome sequenced to find mutations that might cause the conditions. Researchers combined several interesting traits into three different trios of cats and “successfully identified DNA variants (mutations) that cause:
- two different inherited blindnesses in Bengal and Persian cats
- a variant likely causing bobbed tails
- a variant likely causing ear curl
While researchers submit the manuscripts describing the test for the blindness traits for scientific publication, the genetic tests for the traits have been released early, available at UC Davis Veterinary Genetics Laboratory and Langford Veterinary Services. With the early release breeders can take advantage of the tests sooner, preventing the breeding of blind cats while the scientific reports take time to get published.
It may not make sense that cats are being bred while kittens are popping up under everyone’s porch and filling shelters, researchers understand that one of the best wayw to study heritable conditions and traits is by knowing the genetic lineage of the cat. The 99 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Initiative is designed to sequence the genome of 99 cats to “improve coverage and future assemblies of the cat genome; identify genotypic variation across a large number of cats with diverse genetic backgrounds, helping to identify causative mutations for specific health conditions in cats which may also be relevant to humans; and increase the value of individual cat genome sequencing by veterinary hospitals providing state-of-the-art health care”. Our beloved rescues are important participants as controls, and diseases studied include diabetes, heart disease, FIP, incidences of cancer, and other conditions that may have a genetic link.
Your cat can participate too, in fact open bred cats are encouraged, but the cost of gene sequencing is a little steep…at a sponsorship of $7,000 per cat. For more information visit http://felinegenetics.missouri.edu/.
You can also read more about current work within this study funded by Winn Feline Health Fundation: http://www.winnfelinefoundation.org/education/cat-health-news-blog/details/cat-health-news-from-the-winn-feline-foundation/2015/07/21/9-lives-becomes-99-lives-for-cats
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Boyfriend is a very lovable cat that showed up in Margo’s colony, befriending Auntie, a truly feral cat. Boyfriend showed signs of being an owned cat, and when Margo trapped him to be neutered discovered he was FIV+. He did well enough outside until recently when he was obviously losing weight and looking kind of ragged. A visit to the vet discovered he had diabetes. She brought him inside and began treating him, and with insulin he is stable and has gained weight, and he’s doing very well—eating well, friendly, integrating into the household. He is very sweet and is looking for a home now! I’ll be writing more about him and if you might be interested in adopting a seriously affectionate cat who happens to need insulin shots, please get in touch!
Read more articles about Health and Safety and Veterinary Medicine.
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