Sunday, August 1, 2021

Cats: The New Practical Models for Human Genetics?


    According to Leslie Lyons, of the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at the University of Missouri, domestic cats may have the potential to become practical models for human genetics. Domestic cat genes are relatively the same size as human genes, as well as a genome that is both very organized and conserved. Alike to humans, cats are prone to genetic diseases that are related to a dysfunction in their genetic dark matter. Genetic dark matter refers to the approximate 95% of our DNA that is nearly identical throughout the entire animal kingdom. This dark matter has long been seen as extra genetic information with no real purpose, however, recent studies in mice suggest that the DNA dark matter holds essential factors to our development. Due to domestic cat genes having parallel spacing and similar organization in comparison to humans, there may be a greater potential to learn more about Alzheimer’s and blood cancer in mankind. Therapies for genetic diseases such as polycystic kidney disease, which affects both cats and humans, can also be discovered and used to treat humans. Domestic cats also are are more affordable and typically more docile in comparisons for other "lab setting" animals used for genetic discoveries such as monkeys. Overall, cats may be able to get scientists closer to understanding new crucial information pertaining to human disease in comparison to mice and monkeys that are being examined instead. Cats can play a role in developing precision medicine, where instead of finding a cure or treating the symptoms of a genetic disease, scientists can modify and fix the actual gene and what it does.

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By Katherine Morone

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