99 Lives Project Uses Cat Genome Sequencing To Shed Light On Human Dis

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
University of Missouri researchers believe that the genetic makeup of cats may help identify new treatments for humans suffering from allergies, asthma, diabetes and obesity.

Dr. Leslie Lyons is a professor of comparative medicine at the MU College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Lyons says that cats and humans have many diseases in common, and that the genetic makeup of and treatments for cats may give insight as to treatments for humans as well.

Dr. Lyons is the leader of the 99 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Initiative and has been building a database of cate genomes since 2013. The genomes come from veterinarians, researchers and cat owners who want to know more about cat diseases such as allergies, asthma, diabetes and obesity.

Related: Why Researchers Are Studying the Cat’s Meow

Lyons also studies polycystic kidney disease. It’s common in cats and causes cysts in their kidneys. It’s little known that in humans, polycystic kidney disease is also more common in humans than muscular dystrophy, cystic fibrosis and sickle cell combined.

Dr. Lyons believes that because human and cat genomes share such similarities, treatments that work in cats may also be beneficial for humans. She believes that comparing the genomes also helps give information into rare genetic health issues in both humans and cats.

Yoshihiko Yu is a visiting scholar at MU who researches epilepsy. He looked at four cats from the same colony and had their genomes analyzed for epilepsy, as many cats from that family in the colony had epilepsy. The genome sequencing helped narrow where researchers might find epilepsy-related traits, and this will be beneficial for both humans and cats.

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Dr. Lyons said that its useful to be able to study larger animals than smaller ones because it’s easier to see similarities and cystic changes than it is in mice or rats. Dr. Lyons’s initial goal for the 99 Lives Program was to sequence 100 cats, and because of generous donations they rely heavily upon, they’ve been able to sequence almost 200. Because of the group cooperation from nearly 40 institutions in several different countries, information that helps cats and humans is explored more in-depth and brings about the potential to identify and eradicate disease in both.

99 Lives Cat Initiative
Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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