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Researchers Complete Map of Dog DNA

An international team of researchers has completed a map of the genetic make-up of the dog. Researchers say the work, published in the December 8th issue of the journal "Nature", has the potential of improving the health of both man and man's best friend.

There are more than 400 pure breeds of dogs, the result of selective breeding for desirable physical and behavioral traits. As a result of this breeding, experts say many dogs tend toward certain diseases, such as cancer, cataracts, arthritis or hip dysplasia.

Geneticists say by figuring out which genes are responsible for a variety of diseases in dogs, they might be able to apply the knowledge to similar human diseases. Researchers from 15 institutions around the world say they have pinpointed the location of 99 percent of the canine genome.

"So, we have the ability to look at essentially all of the dog genes in their complete sequence, and begin to do comparisons of dog to human and dog to dog. We simply did not have any such ability before," explained Eric Lander, head of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Broad Institute, which led the 15-year research effort.

To find out why some dog breeds get a particular disease and others are plagued by another disease, researchers mapped the genes of a single dog - a boxer named Tasha - and compared the DNA of other breeds to her genetic material, looking for genetic variations.

The genetic sequence of the dog, described in Nature and an accompanying article in the journal Genetic Research, will be available to scientists through a public database.