Uniting the forces of humans and animals

The Department of Genetics at UMC Utrecht and the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Utrecht work closely together to link data

What can scientists in the field of human genetics learn from scientists in the field of animal genetics and vice versa? The Department of Genetics at UMC Utrecht and the University of Utrecht’s College of Veterinary Medicine are working closely together to link the data, so that the cause of genetic disorders in humans, dogs and cats can be determined faster. Therefore, preventative screening and effective treatment are a step closer for both humans and animals.

Hill Viten, pet internal medicine specialist, geneticist and coordinator of the Expert Center for Veterinary Genetics at Utrecht University, initiated the collaboration. “Dogs and cats are mammals. Many of the biological processes and diseases in these animals are the same as in humans. Humans also have the same genes that have the same functions as dogs and cats. Purebred animals are very genetically homogeneous due to inbreeding and selection over appearance. This makes it easier to identify the genes And finding new mutations.And the frequency of disease is much higher for many diseases than for humans, so a clear link can be made between mutation and disease.For example, up to one in two Doberman dogs will suffer from the hereditary heart defect dilated cardiomyopathy, And it’s the dilated heart muscle, during their lifetime,” says Hill.

focused search
In humans, genetic abnormalities are generally less common. For example, dilated cardiomyopathy affects only 1 in 1,000 to 2,000 people. That’s why we can learn from what has been discovered in veterinary medicine for human medicine in this field,” says Peter van Tentlin, Professor of Clinical Genetics at UMC Utrecht. Given the size of the group of animals with a genetic defect, it is easier to trace the gene responsible for it. Exactly. If this is a new gene, we can investigate it specifically in people with the same disease, whose genetic diagnosis is not yet clear.”

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to strengthen each other
Peter continues: “Conversely, it is also possible that the genetic cause of the disorder in humans is clear and obvious, but this has not yet been proven in animals. This was the case, for example, with hereditary cardiomyopathy in cats. Veterinary medicine can once again benefit from the knowledge and experience of human medicine. So that we can strengthen each other tremendously.” Hill: “And also think about the new treatments you want to test. For some cases, we don’t yet have good treatments in veterinary medicine. We can of course also apply a newly developed treatment for humans in treating our canine patients, for which no treatment is currently available.”

Effective treatment and examination
Peter: “Once we have identified the genetic cause of the disease, we can search for an effective treatment. We can also screen family members who want to determine the genetic predisposition that is present. If a family member has the same genetic abnormality, we can start with lifestyle counseling and possibly medication In time to delay the onset of the disease and prefer to prevent it naturally.” Hill: “With dogs, this goes further. That’s why we can develop DNA tests that can be used in kennels to select parent animals and reduce the risk of disease in puppies. And then, when it comes to monogenetic disorders, that is, disorders that mutate In which one gene, it can eliminate the hereditary disease from the population within one generation.”

UMC Utrecht and the University of Utrecht are now working together to develop software to link animal genetic data with human genetic data and to automatically analyze the data.

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Name of author and/or editor by: UMC Utrecht
Photographer or photographic agency: INGImages
The source of this article: UMC Utrecht
What is the URL for this resource?: https://www.umcutrecht.nl/nieuws/gebundelde-krachten-voor-mens-en-dier
Original title: Join forces for people and animals
the target audience: Health care professionals and students
Date: 2021-07-25

Megan Vasquez

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