In English

Kuva: Tuula Heinonen

Rapid development of biomedical research in the past decade has revolutionized 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.

Recently, the genomes of several large mammals such as dog and cat have also been sequenced. This provides us a great opportunity to discover new genes, new genetic disorders and new treatments.

Purebred cats and dogs are a geneticist's dream because each pure breed represents a group of genetically similar animals that descended from only a few ancestors.

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 – such as humans.

Of the 200 inherited feline diseases found so far, over 50% are shared with humans. The coding sequences in human and feline genomes show an overall greater similarity to each other than to mouse coding sequences. Thus, cats can be used as models to understand many human diseases and to develop new more efficient and side-effect free therapies. Genetic analyses of cats will help to uncover the genes responsible for diseases such as cancer, immunodeficiencies, deafness, blindness, heart and metabolic diseases.