Comparative medicine involves the study of the similarities and differences in disease patterns in different mammals - and it sure has a bright future. We share many of our genes with our primate cousins - yet they rarely get cancer. Dogs and humans are similar in many ways, but dogs do not suffer from high blood pressure, even when they have kidney disease.
Professor Bob Michell is Professor of Comparative Medicine at the University of Houston and he points out that collaboration between veterinary and medical scientists can produce exciting new insights into human health. What's more, the study of the dog genome and - maybe - the chimpanzee genome, may be able to pinpoint the handful of genes that could be linked to uniquely human diseases.
AdvertisementDogs are particularly useful to study because they share our environment, and they have a similar age and body size range to humans (in relative, not absolute, terms). Vets have begun measuring blood pressure more routinely among dogs now (just as your physician should keep yours under observation if you are over 35). This has highlighted some differences between kidney function in dogs and humans that may lead to a better understanding of high blood pressure.