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Animal DNA archive boosts veterinary research

A unique archive of animal DNA has been established at the University of Liverpool as part of a new research venture by UK Veterinary schools and the Animal Health Trust.

The UK DNA Companion Animal Archive in the Faculty of Veterinary Science contains DNA samples - taken with owners' consent - from cats, dogs and horses with a range of specific diseases. The samples will be used by researchers to investigate genetic and environmental factors that pre-dispose animals to certain diseases.

The archive represents a major step forward in veterinary research and both clinical data and DNA samples will be available to researchers in the veterinary field. They will be able to use the genetic material to identify the causes of complex genetic diseases of companion animals in an attempt to eradicate certain diseases and develop new treatments.

The animal DNA will also aid research into human genetic studies, as many genes are common to other mammalian species and humans.

The archive will enable researchers to determine both the environmental factors and the genes which interact together to cause diseases, such as renal disease in cats and sarcoid in horses. This will enable vets to improve animal welfare by advising pet owners of the environmental factors their pet should avoid in order to reduce the risk of developing a particular illness.

Professor John Innes, Head of Small Animal Studies, said: "This DNA archive will provide a unique resource to the veterinary research community. Selective breeding of dogs, cats and horses has had the side-effect of concentrating certain genetic diseases in certain breeds."

He continued: "With the canine genome map almost complete, we will now be able, with the help of this archive, to start to identify genes associated with such diseases. This should help us reduce the prevalence of inherited diseases in the nation’s companion animals."

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