Researcher creates world's first feline genetic test
July 12, 2012
Despite the explosion of public interest in tracing one's genealogy and gauging how far science has come in explaining the genetic code, only recently has this research been applied to domestic pets. According to CatChannel.com, Leslie Lyons, a professor with the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, is the researcher credited with breaking the cat genetic code and mapping it in the same way that scientists have done for humans. As a result of these breakthroughs, cat parents will be able to trace their feline's ancestors with a simple swab of his or her cheek. This specific genetic information can reveal not only the cat's past, but it is hoped that one day the lessons learned from the research can be applied to veterinary care.
"The hope is that with this knowledge [contained in the feline genome], we will be able to better understand cats and the diseases they get, and to therefore more efficiently develop treatments," Lyons said.
Domestic cats first came to North America with European settlers from the Old World, as they were valued for their vermin extermination abilities, but Lyons' research has carried her all around the world to trace feline history back even further. She traveled to countries like Kenya, China, Iran, Israel, Vietnam and the Netherlands, and testing 477 pedigreed cats and 944 randomly bred cats in all. This mapping out of the genetic code will allow the new test to actually pinpoint whether a feline coming from a New York animal shelter could trace his or her lineage back to the Middle East or even Asia.
According to PandeCats.com, the test can be performed on kittens or adult felines and consists of a simple cotton swab sample that is mailed away to the UC Davis lab. In a few weeks, the pet parent will receive a detailed history of the feline's genealogy and can understand the story of where his or her furry companion came from. More importantly, the test could pinpoint areas where a cat could be susceptible to a genetic disorder, and parents can possibly begin a treatment plan to prevent it. While it may be in its early stages, this pioneering genetic test could one day change the landscape of veterinary care and allow pet parents to extend both their cats' life span and quality of life.