Dr. Leslie Lyons, a professor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at the University of Missouri, says that there are many reasons that cats and their diseases can be valuable models for the study of human diseases. Dr. Lyons believes that cats are extremely underappreciated in the scientific community, but after extensive research determined that the cat genome is organized in a manner that is similar to that of the human genome. Dr. Lyons recognizes that pets can get similar diseases to humans, which can help gain a better understanding if they know how their genomes are constructed. Cats can also be an asset in gaining a better comprehension of genetic “dark matter”, making up roughly 95% of our DNA, yet 10% of noncoding genes within the dark matter of the genome are conserved across mammals. Studies have shown that cats can have genetic diseases as a result of dysfunctional genetic dark matter, which can make them a great model organism for these types of studies. Cats can also provide more information about the human genome because of the fact that we have the technology to clone cats and make transgenic cats. The first cloning of cats saw results that disagreed with Mendel’s laws and other genetic principles, and researchers were just beginning to understand that something was happening within these genes. On top of this, cats can also provide unique information relating to precision medicine for genetic diseases. As opposed to treating these symptoms, researchers are able to fix the actual gene that is dysfunctional and change what it does. If these diseases are able to be treated via precision medicine in cats, this information can be transferred over to humans in the future. Although cats have been around for thousands of years, the bias stands that it is a dog world. These recent studies, however, revealed that cats are closer to humans than dogs are, in genetic terms, which could possibly make cats man's new best friend.
Link to Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/07/28/science/cats-genome-health.html