How will it work?
The Canine Phenome Project is in an early stage of development. We have begun with Basenjis and soon plan to add two additional breeds, Collies and Kerry Blue Terriers. Gradually, we will add additional breeds, a few at a time, while we build on aspects that work, correct mistakes, and fine-tune our strategy. Our first step was to construct this Canine Phenome Website which facilitates organized interactions with a network of motivated scientists, veterinarians, dog owners, dog breeders, and dog trainers with expertise about specific target dog breeds. With their help we are assembling breed-specific questionnaires to be filled out on-line by dog owners to describe specific phenotypic features and pedigree information about individual enrolled dogs. We store this information in a database and create a password-protected website page for each enrolled dog. The webpage can be accessed by the dog’s owner for updating when additions are made to the questionnaire and whenever there are changes in the dog’s phenotype or medical history. We also obtain blood samples for DNA from each enrolled dog. We will analyze this DNA, first at polymorphic sites associated with genes that are candidates for causing targeted heritable diseases, problem behaviors, and other phenotypes of importance. This approach has already proven successful in identifying the mutation responsible for a severe neurodegenerative disease of Kerry Blue Terriers and we are about to instigate a program to eradicate the disease. Eventually, when genotyping technology improves, we will genotype the samples at numerous polymorphic sites throughout the genome and check for associations between the DNA test results and a wide variety of phenotypes. When we find associations, we will use this information to devise DNA tests to help breeders produce new generations of dogs with desired traits while avoiding genes responsible for unwanted phenotypes such as specific diseases or undesirable behaviors.
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