Veterinary scientists from the University of Melbourne have enlisted 100 domestic dogs in their search to determine what, in their genetic make-up, causes diseases. The researchers aim to study the common immune-related diseases in dogs like type I diabetes, granulomatous meningitis, which are similar to multiple sclerosis, and to haemolytic anaemia, a condition that triggers the immune system to attack the red blood cells (RBC's), hoping to eventually find a solution for common human ailments like diabetes and multiple sclerosis.
The study that is being funded by a grant from the Canine Research Foundation will be the first of its kind in this area. The researchers are looking to study the genetic patterns hat could predispose certain conditions in dogs that are similar to diseases at are found in humans. The researchers hope that by successfully identifying these genetic triggers in dogs, they cold offer a hope for a cure for diseases in humans. It was also explained by the researchers that dogs were chosen for the study, as inbreeding among the species would have contained the genetic variability.
Dr Steven Holloway of the University of Melbourne's faculty of veterinary science, and the study leader, as explained that they have already tested the DNA of 100 Melbourne dogs with different veterinary problems. He further expressed the need for more dogs so as to increase the size of the study group. Dr Holloway explained that his group are investigating a group of proteins in the white blood cells of dogs and for any fine changes that might make the dog more susceptible to diseases or have a better immunity against them.
The researchers, using molecular biology are planning to search for the genetic components of the affected dogs that are responsible for creating immunity. They then plan to map the DNA sequence to try and figure out whether any specific patterns are responsible for causing certain diseases. Dr Holloway said, "If we can determine the genetic elements responsible for autoimmunity we may be better able to study how to prevent or treat these illnesses. Then we can advise breeders to avoid breeding dogs with susceptibility to diseases of the immune system."
He also said that the research would doubly benefit, as what ever is learnt in the study towards treatment of dogs could also be used on humans. Dr Holloway said.
"In the long term as we try to develop drugs that will actually prevent people from picking up these diseases, we're going to need to have some sort of animal models,
the fact that we have dogs that have these diseases means we'd be able to test these treatments with our canine patients." He concluded by stating that it could be very highly probable that, some of the things that could be learnt from dogs might be attributed for preventing somebody's child from becoming a diabetic.