Dog genetics come to human rescue!

Despite major efforts, identifying susceptibility genes for common human diseases – cancers, cardiovascular, inflammatory and neurological disorders – remains difficult due to the complexity of the underlying causes.

The dog population is composed of approximately 400 purebred breeds; each one is a genetic isolate with unique characteristics resulting from selection for desired attributes or from inbreeding. Dogs tend to suffer from the same range of diseases than human but the genetic complexity of these diseases within a breed is reduced as a consequence of the inbreeding and – due to long-range linkage disequilibrium – the number of SNP markers needed to perform whole genome scans is divided by at least ten.

The LUPA initiative is a European research project gathering experts in genomics to take advantage of this extraordinary genetic model. Veterinary clinics from 12 European countries are collecting DNA samples from large cohorts of dogs suffering from a range of thoroughly defined diseases of relevance to human health. The diseases under scope are described under the different workpackages (WP1 to WP5 in the left column).

Once the different cohorts are built, DNA samples are sent to a centralized, high-throughput SNP genotyping facility. The SNP genotypes are stored in central database and made available to participating collaborating centres, who will analyze the data with the support of dedicated statistical genetics platforms.

Following genome wide association and fine-mapping the candidate genes will be followed up at the molecular level by expert animal and human genomics centers. This innovative approach using the dog model will ultimately provide insights into the pathogenesis of common human diseases – its primary goal.