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AHT gets a helping hand

Scientists at the Animal Health Trust have been making spectacular progress in the world of canine genetics, thanks in part to a significant funding contribution from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust.

The Charitable Trust, through its Health Foundation Fund, which specifically provides funds for research to develop new DNA tests for inherited conditions, has given considerable financial assistance to the Animal Health Trust, which is now reaping invaluable rewards.

The genetics group at the Animal Health Trust has announced the identification of the genetic cause of five inherited diseases in the dog during the last six months, including hereditary cataract in the Staffordshire Bull terrier and progressive retinal atrophy in the Miniature Longhaired Dachshund.

This has enabled the group to develop DNA tests that will allow breeders to pre-screen their breeding stock before they are used in a breeding programme.

This work has helped create a generic approach to identifying any single gene mutation in the dog, which can use the information from both the human and canine genome projects more easily. The recent publication of the canine genome sequence has demonstrated just how similar humans and dogs are at the gene level, and how many human inherited diseases have similar, if not identical, canine counterparts.

This means that research into new canine inherited diseases will not only be to the benefit of the dog, but it will also be of increasing benefit to human health as the results of the canine research will better inform clinicians studying the human disease.

The Kennel Club Charitable Trust provides grants to organisations which promote the advancement of science and research into canine diseases, the quality of life of humans whose dogs act as therapeutic and physical aids, and the relief of dogs in need of care and attention.

The Charitable Trust was formed in 1987 and has distributed funds totalling around £2 million since its inception, with almost £300,000 awarded in grants last year alone, and is now reviewing further applications from the Animal Health Trust and other research centres for funding on a range of further projects.

Mike Townsend, Chairman of the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, said: "Whenever the Charitable Trust gives money to help fund scientific research, it does so in the hope that the results will help make a difference for dogs. The work done by the Animal Health Trust has been exceptional. Their findings will lead to improvements in the health of several breeds of dog and we hope to be able to assist them to carry out further research in the future."