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Dog’s Role in Studying Human Oncology
Similarities in the two species’ DNA helps researchers.

Meningioma is one of the most common brain tumors in humans and canines. Determining the gene responsible for the disease isn’t easy. According to Science Daily, humans with this type of cancer usually lose a certain chromosome made up of almost 50 million base pairs of DNA that code for more than 500 genes.

Lucky for oncology research, it turns out that dogs and humans are genetically similar, but organized differently. This makes it possible to isolate smaller regions of genetic data rather than searching through the whole chromosome. In other words, scientists can focus their studies on a small part of those millions of base pairs.

 

For a long time scientists had misidentified the NF2 gene as the culprit behind meningioma. By comparing human and canine genomes, researchers at North Carolina State University found that the NF2 gene on chromosome 26 was rarely affected in dogs with meningioma. Instead, the cancer-stricken canines showed the loss of chromosome 27. This discovery has allowed researchers to focus on the corresponding chromosome in humans, narrowing down the search 50-fold.

 

Sharing similar genetics means that both humans and canines will benefit from this research. And, down to our DNA, we have more in common with dogs than it might appear!

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

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