News Releases

Researchers Report Construction of Genetic Map for Dogs

SEATTLE, Dec. 14 1997/PRNewswire/ -- Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the James A. Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York, are reporting the development of a framework reference map of the canine genome. The article appears in today's issue of Genomics, published by the Academic Press. The ultimate goal of canine genome research is to find all the genes in the chromosomes of domestic dogs and make this information available to others to develop tools to better diagnose disease well before the appearance of symptoms. It is believed that dog genetics offers the hope of discovering the genetic basis of both mammalian development and disease in a variety of species including humans. "The notion of a canine genetic map had been proposed by the genetics community years ago; over the last three years we developed the markers to serve as the cornerstone of the map, and were able to develop efficient approaches for ordering the markers on the individual chromosomes," said Elaine Ostrander, Ph.D., lead investigator and molecular biologist, who is an associate member in the clinical division at the Hutchinson Center. "We were able to provide a number of highly informative pedigrees of dogs that, for several years, had been bred specifically for genetic studies such as these," said collaborator Gustavo D. Aguirre, VMD, Ph.D., director of the Center for Canine Genetics and Reproduction at the Baker Institute. The canine map generated by this collaboration covers most of the canine genome and represents a major step toward the completion of a more comprehensive canine genetic map. It was constructed from 150 highly informative markers, known as microsatellite markers, developed and typed by the Ostrander group and on informative pedigrees developed by the Cornell team. The Linkage panel used included information from 17 three-generation pedigrees with genetically distinct backgrounds, a total of 212 individuals. According to Ostrander, the development of a canine genetic map is of particular importance, not only in solving questions of inheritance in dogs, but in humans as well. Purebred dogs, though all of one species, in practice represent a multitude of closed breeding populations. Many of the genetic diseases that proliferate in inbred dogs also occur in the human population, but are difficult to trace genetically because the high degree of genetic diversity and low number of offspring in human families make informative pedigrees a rarity. These diseases include cancer, epilepsy, retinal degeneration, bleeding disorders, skeletal malformations, and a host of others. Dogs represent a unique genetic resource with each of several hundred breeds exhibiting distinct physical and behavioral traits, and with remarkable consistency among its members. Mapping disease genes in dogs lead to an increased recognition of the role inheritance plays in human disease. In a second paper published in the journal, the two groups describe the construction of a dog-rodent hybrid cell panel to aid in determining the order and spacing of genes and traits of interest on the chromosomes of the canine genome. Both papers, which are featured on the cover of the this month's journal, are the result of an unusual and highly productive collaboration between the two major canine genetics groups in Seattle and Ithaca, each of which brought a unique set of resources and talents to the venture. The Hutchinson Center is one of 28 comprehensive cancer research centers, as designated by the National Cancer Institute. Using basic and applied research, the Center's mission is to eliminate cancer and related diseases as causes of human suffering and death. Advances at the Hutchinson Center in the areas of cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment are coupled with the progress made toward understanding the mechanisms of neoplastic development as well as basic aspects of cellular and molecular biology common to all organisms. In 1951 the James A. Balker Institute for Animal Health established the first laboratory in the world dedicated solely to addressing the health needs of dogs through bask and applied research. The Institute is renowned for its contributions to the control of canine infectious diseases through the development of vaccines against canine distemper, infectious hepatitis, parvovirus, and other diseases. The Institute is part of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University, established in 1894; the mission of the College is to advance animal and human health through education, research, and public service. The project was conducted by Ostrander and her associates at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as a continuation of work that she had initiated at the University of California several years ago. Ostrander's team included Cathryn Mellersh, Ph.D. a postdoctoral fellow, Amelia Langston, M.D., a clinical associate, and research associate Neil Wiegand. Aguirre's team at Cornell included Gregory Acland, BVSc, a veterinary ophthalmologist and senior research associate in genetics; and Kunal Ray, MS, Ph.D., senior research associate in molecular genetics. This research was supported by The Canine Health Foundation of the American Kennel Club, the Wellcome Trust The Muscular Dystrophy Association, the Foundation Fighting Blindness, Morris Animal Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and the National Institutes of Health. SOURCE Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

CONTACT:

Susan Edmonds of the Hutchinson Center: 206-667-2896
Jeri Wall of Cornell University: 607-253-3746