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What Cats Can Teach Us About the Human Genome and Our Genetic “Dark Matter”

Despite the fact that cats have coexisted with humans for millennia, the globe is still dominated by dogs. Historically, this prejudice has seeped into the field of science as well. Leslie Lyons, a veterinary medicine specialist, argues in a forum published on July 28, 2021, in the journal Trends in Genetics, that it is past time for cats to have their day in the sun. The feline genome, according to her, has the potential to be a useful model organism for geneticists since the feline genome is organised in a similar manner to the human genome.

Lyons, a professor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine & Surgery at the University of Missouri, believes that using cats in research is underappreciated since people aren't aware of the benefits of using them. Unlike humans, the dog and mouse genomes have rearranged chromosomes that are very distinct from one another. However, the domestic cat has genes that are about the same size and has a genome that is highly ordered and preserved.

Lyons argues that cats may be a valuable tool in the quest to better comprehend our genetic "dark stuff," as Lyons puts it. It has long been assumed to be just filler information with little or no significance, but recent research suggests that about 10% of the noncoding areas within the dark matter of the genome are conserved among mammals, indicating that it may play a significant but underappreciated function. Several hereditary disorders associated with the malfunctioning of cats' genetic dark matter have been discovered in recent years, making them a promising model organism for this kind of study.

"As we learn that animals, for example, have more comparable spacing between genes and that the genes are in the same order, we may be able to better understand what is going on in humans," Lyons adds. Although working with a primate is prohibitively costly, the affordability and docile character of cats make them one of the most viable animals to use in the study of the human genome, according to the researchers.

A further reason why cats may be able to provide insight into the human genome is that we now have the ability to clone cats and create transgenic cats. Cc, an abbreviation for CopyCat, was the first cat clone ever created in 2001. Even though her cell donor was a normal orange and white calico cat with a black and orange coat, Cc didn't turn out to have any orange on her coat, violating Mendel's laws and other fundamental genetic principles in the process. Researchers are just now starting to unravel the mystery of what was going on in Cc's DNA.

It is possible that cats may play a part in precision medicine for genetic disorders, in which, rather than treating the symptoms, researchers would repair the actual gene as well as what the gene produces. For example, some kinds of cats are predisposed to the hereditary ailment polycystic kidney disease, which affects people as well as felines. When it comes to treating this illness in cats, Lyons believes that we can use the lessons learned to treat humans using precision medicine.

In other words, if you and your cat go through the door of the veterinarian's office and there is no trauma, no feeding issue, it is possible that the cat has a hereditary condition. Veterinarians might sequence the genes and possibly more rapidly identify the underlying reason for what is happening, and then create a therapy that is more suitable than just treating the symptoms, "Lyons explains. Our dogs would benefit from a more customised healthcare service, and additional money would help put all of the parts in place.

Conclusion

The feline genome has the potential to be a useful model organism for geneticists. Leslie Lyons argues that using cats in research is underappreciated since people aren't aware of the benefits of using them. While working with a primate is prohibitively costly, the affordability and docile character of cats make them one of the most viable animals to use in the study of the human genome. Cats may play a part in precision medicine for genetic disorders, rather than treating the symptoms. Some kinds of cats are predisposed to polycystic kidney disease, which affects people as well as felines. Veterinarians might sequence genes and identify the underlying reason for what is happening.

source

“Cats – telomere to telomere and nose to tail” by Leslie A. Lyons, 28 July 2021, Trends in Genetics.

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