Although cats have lived next to humans for millennia, it remains a canine world. This bias has historically flowed into science. It’s time for cats to get their day, argues veterinarian Leslie Lyons in a forum published July 28 in Trends in Genetics magazine. Cats, she says, have the potential to be a valuable model organism for geneticists because the cat genome is arranged similarly to humans.
“The use of cats in research is really being overlooked because people fail to see the benefits,” says Lyons of the Department of Veterinary Medicine and Surgery at the University of Missouri. “The genome of dogs or mice has very different chromosomes than humans, but domestic cats have genes that are roughly the same size as humans and a genome that, like humans, is very organized and conserved.”
Lyons writes that cats could be an asset to helping researchers better understand our genetic “dark matter”. Although it makes up 95% of our DNA, it has long been viewed as filler information with little to no consequence, yet around 10% of the non-coding regions in the dark matter of the mammalian genome are conserved, suggesting that it is an important, misunderstood meaning matters. Cats have been found to have genetic diseases related to their genetic dark matter dysfunction, making them a potential model organism for this type of research.
“If we discover that animals may have similar distances between genes and that the genes are in the same order, it may help us decipher what is going on with humans,” says Lyons. “Working with a primate is expensive, but the affordability and docile nature of a cat make it one of the most suitable animals for understanding the human genome.”
Another reason cats could unravel the human genome is because we have the technology to clone cats and make transgenic cats. The first cat clone, Cc, short for CopyCat, was generated in 2001. Her cell donor was a typical calico cat with black, orange, and white fur, but Cc didn’t have an orange on her fur, which Mendels did. opposed laws and other basic genetic principles. This indicated that something was going on in the genes of Cc that researchers are only just beginning to understand.
Cats could also play a role in precision medicine for hereditary diseases, in which researchers, rather than treating symptoms, determine the actual gene and what the gene does. For example, certain breeds of cats are prone to the inherited disease polycystic kidney disease, which also affects humans. Lyons writes that if we could treat this disease in cats with precision medicine, we could apply these findings to ourselves.
“So if you and your cat walk through the vet’s door and there is no trauma, there is no feeding problem, there could be a genetic problem with the cat. Vets could sequence the genes and possibly find the cause faster.” what’s going on, and then come up with a treatment that’s more appropriate than just treating the symptoms, “says Lyons.” We can tailor health programs for our pets and more money would go all the different parts in the right direction . “
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