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Animal Health Trust launches new genetic research initiative
Charitable Trust supports AHT’s new programme

THE ANIMAL health Trust is launching a new genetic research initiative at this year’s Crufts Show in a bid to add hereditary cataract and progressive retinal atrophy to the list of DNA tests currently available for dog breeders.

During 2005 scientists at the Animal Health Trust identified the genetic mutations responsible for hereditary cataract in the Staffordshire Bull Terrier and juvenile cataract in the Boston Terrier and have developed DNA diagnostic tests that are now available to distinguish carrier, clear and affected dogs.

The studies, which also included the development of a diagnostic test for L-2-HGA in Staffordshire Bull Terriers, have been funded in part by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, which through its Health Foundation Fund helps pay for research to develop new DNA tests for inherited conditions. This allows breeders to screen their breeding stock before they are used for breeding.

"The work done by the Animal Health Trust has been exceptional. Its findings will lead to improvements in the health of several breeds of dog." said Kennel Club Charitable Trust chairman Mike Townsend.

Now, funded by a £250 000 grant from the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, the same team of researchers are starting an exciting new project to study the genetics of hereditary cataract (HC) and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) in other breeds.

Over the next three years the Trust’s scientists aim to identify the genetic mutations that are responsible for HC in the Golden Retriever and the American Cocker Spaniel and for PRA in the Golden Retriever and the Tibetan Spaniel. They will develop DNA diagnostic tests that breeders can use to eliminate these debilitating diseases from their breeds.

In addition to the breeds listed above the Trust will investigate the genetics of HC and PRA in any breed for which they collect sufficient DNA samples. The success of this research will largely depend on the successful collection of DNA from dogs that can usefully contribute to the research.

The Trust will be launching its campaign to collect DNA samples from its stand at Crufts. Any dog of any breed that has ever been diagnosed as affected with either HC or PRA, or close relatives of affected dogs, can help with their research to identify the genetic cause of these diseases.

Visitors and exhibitors can help by picking up a DNA sampling pack from the AHT stand in Hall 5 (stand No 16). It might be that your dog can help the AHT add hereditary cataract and progressive retinal atrophy to the list of DNA tests available.