Published: 27/02/2014 15:32:25
FURTHER £1.6MILLION COMMITTED TO IMPROVING DOG HEALTH
From the creation of online tools to the development of DNA tests, the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) has proven beneficial to many dog owners and breeders in helping to improve the health and welfare of dogs.
The Centre, which celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2014, was created to combine the resources and expertise of the Kennel Club and the AHT with the aim of benefitting thousands of dogs – both individuals and whole breeds.
By developing essential tools, minimising the risk of breeding affected puppies and designing breeding programmes which improve overall health of breeds, the Kennel Club Genetics Centre has helped dog breeders improve the health of their dogs by avoiding inherited diseases in their breeds.
Professor Steve Dean, Chairman of the Kennel Club, said: “We are committed to helping dog breeders address inherited diseases , and by working with the AHT we have, together, created a centre of excellence, which in just five years has already helped to significantly improve the health and welfare of a number of pedigree breeds.
“The Kennel Club invests a significant part of its income towards improving dog health and welfare. Historically we have information on our registration system about millions of pedigree dogs which we use to further knowledge of dog diseases and how to prevent them. By working in partnership with the AHT, we have been able to provide a number of practical resources and expertise to aid dog breeders in their ambition to reduce or eradicate inherited diseases.
The Kennel Club Charitable Trust invested £1.2 million into the Centre when it opened in 2009. Since then, and led by Dr Cathryn Mellersh and Dr Sarah Blott of the AHT, the Centre has:
- collected and stored DNA samples from 11,000 dogs from 170 different breeds
- undertaken genome-wide association studies using DNA samples from 1,461 dogs of 25 different breeds
- identified 10 unique mutations responsible for inherited disorders known to affect 29 different breeds and developed DNA tests which have been used to test more than 38,000 dogs through the AHT’s DNA testing facility
Dr Cathryn Mellersh, Head of Canine Genetics at the AHT, said: “The creation of the Kennel Club Genetics Centre has enabled us to take huge steps forward in our mutation detection work. This is assisting dog breeders in their breeding decisions and, most importantly, minimising the risk of breeding affected puppies.
“The work we are doing within the Centre is making a significant difference for thousands of dogs.”
In addition to the mutation detection work, the Centre has helped the Kennel Club to develop and launch the revolutionary web tool, Mate Select, enabling dog breeders to find the most suitable mate for their dog.
One of the first tools launched through this platform was the algorithm for calculating inbreeding coefficients of all Kennel Club registered dogs and for prospective matings. This service now attracts more than 23,000 searches per month.
At Crufts 2014, scientists from the Kennel Club Genetics Centre will be demonstrating the next phase of Mate Select, which will include giving dog breeders and owners access to estimated breeding values for hip dysplasia in 15 breeds and elbow dysplasia in five breeds.
These breeds account for more than 80,000 Kennel Club registrations per year, so these EBVs will initially be available for 33 per cent of all Kennel Club registered dogs.
The Centre has also begun analysis of the population structure and rate of inbreeding for all 211 Kennel Club recognised breeds in an effort to better understand how this may contribute to an increased rate of inbreeding.
Analysis has shown that approximately 40 per cent of the 132 breeds analysed to date have effective population sizes below 50 – the minimum size recommended in order to manage inbreeding.
Dr Sarah Blott, Head of Quantitative Genetics at the AHT, said: “Management of complex diseases, those which are caused by more than just one defective gene, pose the greatest threat to the health of dogs. Of the 489 currently known genetic diseases in dogs, 72 per cent are believed to be complex.
“The research the quantitative scientists are undertaking in the Kennel Club Genetics Centre is helping dog breeders to develop breeding strategies that will maintain long-term health by managing rates of inbreeding and reducing the prevalence of existing diseases.”
To continue this vital work, the Kennel Club Charitable Trust has committed £1.6 million to the Kennel Club Genetics and Cancer Centres at the AHT over the next five years (2014 - 2018), helping to further accelerate research into inherited diseases affecting dogs.
The Kennel Club Genetics Centre will continue to investigate and identify mutations, develop DNA tests and enhance services available to breeders to address diseases that are clinically severe or affect large numbers of dogs.
The funding will also enable the AHT’s cancer research team, working with the Kennel Club Cancer Centre, to acquire an innovative technology known as the ‘GeneAtlas System’. This equipment enables the investigation of tumour biopsies, collected for diagnostic purposes, in a manner that has not been previously possible.
Initially the technology will assist in identifying gene markers that are characteristic of the metastasis (spread) of uveal melanomas, the most common primary eye tumour in dogs. It is hoped, through this research, that a test will be developed to identify whether a tumour in an individual dog will spread or not, and therefore prevent the unnecessary removal of eyes from dogs with uveal melanomas. Longer term, the intention is for the GeneAtlas System to be used in the investigation of many cancers, including lymphoma, oral melanoma and mast cell tumours.
Professor Steve Dean added: “The Kennel Club remains passionate about improving the health and welfare of dogs. The addition of a capability to study the genetic factors associated with cancer development is a new avenue for our co-operation with the AHT and one we are very excited about, given the dominance of cancers as a cause of death and suffering in dogs. We know there is still much to do on all health related fronts, so I’m extremely pleased that we will be funding a further five years of research, within the Kennel Club Genetics Centre and also the more recently-founded Kennel Club Cancer Centre at the AHT.”
Dr Mark Vaudin, Chief Executive of the AHT, said: “We’re delighted to continue our partnership with the Kennel Club on these important welfare issues. Our level of skill and expertise within the canine genetics and cancer fields is widely recognised and it is exciting to know that we will be applying our knowledge to further equip dog breeders and owners with essential information to improve the health of their breeds.”
A copy of the full report ‘Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT: five year report’ is available to download here.
To read more about our canine genetics research, please click here.
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