What are the short-term benefits?
The password-accessible website pages for each enrolled dog will help dog owners maintain medical records (vaccination dates, symptoms and dates of illness, breeding records, etc). These records should promote the accurate diagnosis of diseases by making it convenient to describe and record disease episodes or other pertinent information (medications, appetite, etc) while still fresh in the owner’s mind. With the owners permission (and password) the dog’s medical history could be accessed by an available veterinarian in emergency situations or by a new veterinarian, should the dog’s owner move or change veterinarian for other reasons.
We intend to perform at least one genotype assay on the DNA from each newly enrolled dog. This test will be done at no charge and will ensure and document that the DNA preparations from all enrolled dogs are of sufficient quality to be used in future scientific studies. With the Basenjis, we test for a mutation in a pyruvate kinase gene (PKLR) which causes a life-threatening, recessive form of hemolytic anemia. With the Kerry Blue Terriers, we will soon begin testing for carriers of the above-mentioned neurodegenerative disease. Similar tests offered by commercial laboratories usually cost between $75 and $140 per test.
Although large-scale DNA testing will be deferred until the technology for high throughput DNA analysis improves, we plan to conduct focused research on one or a few heritable diseases or traits of particular interested to each specific participating breed. For the most part, this research will focus on diseases or traits for which there are “suspect” (or candidate) genes. For Basenjis, we are studying Fanconi syndrome, a common kidney disease that can occur in adult Basenjis and that can be life-threatening if not aggressively managed. In some cases we may seek supplemental funds to study the phenotypes targeted for special emphasis. For the Basenjis, we have applied for and received a small grant from the American Kennel Club/Canine Health Foundation to study Fanconi Syndrome. When possible, we will collaborate with other research groups that have special expertise and/or funding to investigate the targeted phenotypes. Sequence information recently released to the public from the Canine Genome Project has made this type of research much more efficient and much less expensive than it was in the past. Thus, the Canine Phenome Project should facilitate the discovery of many useful DNA markers such as that of Kerry Blue Terrier neurodegeneration, even in the short run.
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