Current canine research at the AHT
We will consider investigating any inherited canine disorder that has a negative impact on the health, well being or quality of life of dogs. The choice of diseases that we study is largely driven by the dog owners and breeders we talk to and also the clinicians we liaise with. We cannot successfully investigate any inherited condition without the co-operation and collaboration of the dog owning and breeding community.
Projects currently ongoing
GIVE A DOG A GENOME
We are working with the Kennel Club to create the UK's largest canine genome bank.
We are identifying genetic variants that contribute to the risk of developing HC with the aim of developing DNA-tools for breeders.
PROGRESSIVE RETINAL ATROPHY
We're studying the genetics of PRA in multiple breeds with the aim of developing DNA tests to eliminate this disease.
Read the latest developments into cone-rod dystophy in the Miniature Longhaired Dachshund
We are investigating the genetics of these painful and blinding eye conditions in a number of breeds.
Our geneticists are collaborating with our veterinary neurologists to investigate IE in a number of breeds.
STEROID RESPONSIVE MENINGITIS
We believe breeds may have a genetic predisposition to this disease.
PERSISTANT HYPERPLASTIC PRIMARY VITREOUS
We are investigating this eye condition which is inherited in Staffordshire Bull Terriers.
SA is a dermatological condition affecting several breeds of dog, most commonly the Standard Poodle.
INTERVERTEBRAL DISC DEGENERATION
We are investigating IVDD in Dachshunds
The process we use to investigate an inherited disease is more or less the same, regardless of the disease, and always starts with sample collection. To study any disease we require DNA samples from dogs that are affected with the disease (we call these ‘cases’) and also dogs of the same breed that are unaffected (we call these ‘controls’). We will usually ask for written confirmation that a dog is affected, such as a letter from the dog’s vet or a copy of his/her eye examination report. For some diseases we will also need confirmation that the controls are truly clear of disease, such as a clear eye examination report, although for some conditions it will be sufficient for the owner to tell us the dog is not affected (e.g. epilepsy). The number of cases and controls that we need samples from varies between diseases, and depends on several factors such as the mode of inheritance and the number of genes that are likely to be involved, but is usually between 24 and 100.
We can collect and store DNA samples indefinitely, until we have enough to start the active research. Once we have samples from enough dogs, we analyse their DNA with about 170,000 different markers located along the DNA, to hopefully identify regions of the DNA that are similar in the cases and different in the controls; such a region is very likely to harbour the causal mutation. The dog’s genome consists of around two and a half thousand million (2.5 x 109) nucleotides of DNA. If each nucleotide was 1mm long the canine genome would stretch from Land’s End to John O’Groats and back again. A mutation that is responsible for an inherited disease can be anywhere in the DNA and can be as small as a single incorrect nucleotide, so pinpointing a disease-associated mutation can be quite a challenge. Once we have identified a region (called the ‘critical region’) of the DNA that contains a mutation (equivalent to a one or two mile stretch of road on the journey from Land’s End to John O’Groats and back) we ‘zoom in’ on that region and sequence some or all of the DNA within the region, nucleotide by nucleotide, until we identify the mutation that is causing the disease we are investigating. Once we have identified the mutation and confirmed we have the correct mutation, by analysing the DNA from a large number of cases and controls, we develop a DNA test that is offered to the public by our DNA testing facility.
Most of our staff in the Canine Genetics team are currently funded by the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT but we still need to raise funds to pay for the laboratory materials we use during the active research phase of each investigation. We routinely apply to funding bodies such as the Kennel Club Charitable Trust and the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation; in addition much of our funding comes from Breed Clubs and also from generous donations from individuals.