|Dr. Lohi’s Research into Glaucoma|
Dr Hannes Lohi has launched a genetic research programme at the University of Helsinki, aimed at identifying genetic defects related to hereditary diseases in different dog breeds. Dr Lohi is building a databank of canine DNA samples, and has recently discovered the gene which causes epilepsy in Lagotto Romagnolo puppies. Genetic testing is now available for all Lagotto owners and it is this kind of testing which we hope will become available for Dandies and glaucoma.
Dr Lohi writes
“Rapid development of biomedical research in the past decade has revolutionised the research of genetic diseases. Thousands of disease genes have been discovered in various inherited disorders and that has resulted in the early diagnostics and prevention as well as better treatment of the diseases. This development was greatly boosted by the international Human Genome Project, which has facilitated the identification of the risk alleles and disease genes in many conditions.
“Recently, the dog’s genome has also been sequenced providing us an equally great opportunity for many new gene discoveries. The dog is a geneticist's dream because each pure breed represents a group of genetically similar animals that descended from only a few ancestors. The presence of hundreds of breeds of dog, each in an isolated breeding population, allows us to simplify a complicated genetic problem. Most breeds have been artificially created by man and this selective breeding has resulted in amazing variation between breeds with respect to weight, size, head shapes, coat, ear shape, behaviours and diseases. Since any traits associated with a given breed must result from a shared set of genetic determinants, these genes stand out much more obviously than they would in a population of unrelated, or genetically dissimilar, animals.
“The large number of reported diseases is due to the founder effect and inbreeding practices in pure-bred dogs that uncover recessive disease alleles. Through aggressive breeding programs man has created over 400 different breeds of dog and burdened them with over 400 inherited diseases during the last 400 years. This places dogs as the species with the second largest number of known genetic diseases, surpassed only by humans. Genetic analysis of man's best friend will also help to uncover the genes responsible for the physical features and behaviours unique to each breed as well as the diseases to which they are commonly susceptible, such as cancer, epilepsy, allergies, deafness, blindness, heart disease and hip dysplasia.
“I have started a canine genetic program in the University of Helsinki, Finland. Our objective is to collect many breeds of dogs with different inherited diseases and try to identify the genetic defects behind them. Potential gene discoveries will help us to devise DNA markers and tests, which can be used to reliably distinct affected, carrier and healthy dogs. This will help the breed club to redesign the breeding programs to start systemically to prevent or eradicate the disease in the breed. This is important since it allows us to keep also the carrier dogs in the population and develop the breed in a more controlled way.
“We have initiated several research projects in multiple breeds of dogs in Finland. We have started to collect pedigrees and DNA samples for many breeds with variety of diseases such as epilepsy, autoimmune diseases, cancers, vision disorders and behavioural problems. It is important for the success of the projects that the owners and breeders would participate openly and actively with the research group to help them to get enough DNA samples, pedigree information and clinical data to ensure necessary resources for disease gene identification.
“To be able to conduct these studies, we need blood samples from the affected dogs and their healthy siblings and parents as much as possible. More samples we get, faster we can proceed. All the dog names and owner information will not be revealed to anybody and will be handled confidentially. Although the research group is responsible for the major funding of the projects, we welcome also any external help.
“We wish an open and fruitful collaboration with all dog owners, breeders and friends, and welcome as many samples as you can contribute for the projects. Together we can now start to advance the healthiness of our breeds and make sure we have happy dogs in future!”
In the last few months increasing numbers of Dandie owners have been sending in blood samples to Dr Lohi: in July 2007 Dr Lohi only had 40 samples from Dandies; by May 2008 he had received to date 123 samples. By the time this article is published, Dr Lohi and his team will have begun to map the gene, initially taken from twenty Dandies’ samples. This is just the first set of samples he will be analysing in order to try and map the glaucoma locus, but this is just the beginning and he will continue to need more samples so it is very important to continue sending our samples to him.
For all Dandies whose samples have already sent in, it is very important to keep Dr Lohi updated in the following circumstances:-
If you would like to help the Dandie breed by participating in this research, please see the following instructions:-
Information for blood sample collection:
All information regarding the dog´s or owner´s names will be kept confidential. Results will be released only by the owner´s consent.
Ranja Eklund/Lohi´s research group
Biomedicum Helsinki, Room B332a
PL 63 (Haartmaninkatu 8)
FIN-00014 University of Helsinki
Thank you for your continued support.