Cat Lovers Rejoice
Feline gene research promises better health for our kitty friends.
I am excited. As a practicing veterinarian and cat lover, I have treated cats for one disease or another for the past 30 years. Recently it has baffled me how little has changed in our approach to feline disease. Okay, a new drug for herpesvirus here, or for hypertension there, but not the great strides we have made in the medical treatment of other species. Perhaps it is because cats often present as a diagnostic challenge, masking signs of disease until well into the course of the condition (a survival technique) or perhaps the cynic in me would say that feline medical research lacks the economic incentive seen in other species.
Dr. Patricia Olsen, president and CEO of Morris Animal Foundation concurs. "It is a sad irony that cats are the most popular pet in our country, yet far too little research funding and veterinary care are being provided to meet the cat's unique health needs."
But all this is about to change. Dr. Olsen continues that thanks to Hill Pet Nutrition Inc.'s generous donation of both money and scientific data to researchers of the Morris Animal Foundation, cats have been given a dramatically better opportunity for a long and healthy life.
Funded in part by the Winn Feline Foundation, early work by Dr. William Murphy at Texas A&M University got the ball rolling. To put it simply, researchers tapped into the previously defined human, mouse and dog genomes to develop the preliminary feline gene map. Interestingly, the cat genome shares 95 percent of the genetic information with the human and dog genomes. By comparing genomes between species and the same species over time (cats first appeared 35 million years ago) location of mutations and susceptibility to disease are determined. For example, researchers at Hebrew University of Jerusalem recently analyzed ancient feline DNA and their findings when compared to cat's current genetic makeup may lead to genomic therapy for feline leukemia. Exciting stuff.
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