Scientists at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT have sequenced the domestic dog’s DNA, thanks to the blood of a boxer named Tasha. Now they hope to follow Tasha’s genetic code to a new understanding of shared diseases (such as cancer) and the genetic roots of the differences between man and beast.
The unique variation among dog breeds, each of which has specific appearances, behavioral traits, and tendencies toward disease, make the dog an ideal animal for genetic analysis, researchers said.
The work entailed determining the order of 2.4 billion chemical bases that make up dog DNA, the long molecule that contains the dog’s genetic blueprint. The dog genome has been partially decoded in the past, but the Broad’s effort has produced a genetic map of the dog that researchers say is 99 percent complete.
Knowing the makeup of a dog’s DNA is an enormous aid to researchers trying to figure out where genes responsible for specific traits or defects are located. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, co-director of the Broad’s genome sequencing and analysis program, said that knowing the sequence of an animal’s DNA allows comparisons with human DNA, improving understanding of both humans and animals.
Broad Institute officials made the announcement Wednesday (Dec. 7) at Boston’s Bayside Expo Center the day before the opening of the Bay Colony Cluster Dog Show, which will bring thousands of dogs and their owners to the arena.