genetics: man’s best friend is decoded

After a year of work, researchers announced last week that they have assembled a detailed draft of the dog genome, the genetic coding that makes a dog a dog. The genome has been placed on-line in various public databases, making it available to veterinary and biomedical scientists around the world. A team of researchers led by Kerstin Lindblad-Toh of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, and Agencourt Bioscience Corp., in Beverly, Mass., successfully decoded the genetic sequence of a female boxer named Tasha. Scientists are interested in the canine genome because many dogs are prone to the same genetic diseases that are seen in humans, including cancer, heart disease, deafness, blindness, and autoimmune disorders. The researchers are currently comparing the human and canine genome sequences for similarities and differences, and plan to publish their analysis in the next few months. Tasha, however, is not the only dog to have her genome decoded: a rough genetic sequence of a male standard poodle named Shadow was reported in the journal Science last year.

This news brief appeared in the Discoveries column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 7/20/2004.
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