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Can our feline friends help us in the fight against diabetes and asthma?

24 April 2015

Scientists believe that the genetic profiles of domestic short hair cats may contain clues about diseases that both cats and humans suffer from. These illnesses include diabetes and some causes of blindness.

Researchers have launched a genome sequencing project called 99 lives. The project is based at the University of Missouri and aims to determine the genetic profile of 99 domestic cats.


Genome sequencing project based at the University of Missouri


The results may generate new medicine for treating both cats and humans. For example polycystic kidney disease (PKD) is seen in both cats and elderly people. A team led by professor Leslie Lyons at the University of Missouri has discovered that the genetic mutations that cause the disease occur in the same gene in humans and cats.

Other parts of the cats genome are now being studied to see whether pieces of DNA have an influence on the speed and severity of the progression of PKD in an animal. Scientists have only sequenced the genome of one cat, an Abyssinian called Cinnamon, however dozens have dogs have been sequenced. The 99 lives project has started sequencing about 40 cats, anyone can provide specimens of blood or tissue but the cost of becoming involved is around £5,000.


Scientists have sequenced the genome of an abyssinian cat


The project will allow the origins of the domestic cat to be traced, for example Europe's domestic tabby is thought to be related to the Arabian wild cat.

Further information on the project can be found on the 99 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Initiative website.