Expansion of genetic mapping & genomic resources for the domestic cat
Rory J. Todhunter, BVSc, PhD, Adam Boyko, PhD, and Marta Castelhano, DVM (pictured)
With partial funding from the Cornell Feline Health Center, including a research grant in 2015-2016, the Cornell Veterinary Biobank has collected DNA samples from hundreds of patients at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals and the Community Practice Service and from healthy cats recruited outside Cornell. The Biobank offers these DNA resources to scientists from all parts of the University, who can then use them to explore linkages between genes and specific feline diseases like diabetes, hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, coagulation disorders, arthritis, kidney disease, obesity, dental disease, and lymphoma. With a large set of samples from both affected cats and from cats who are healthy, Cornell scientists can home in on the genetic differences that make these cats sick, tracking down the causes of feline genetic diseases and pushing the science toward prevention, novel treatments, and cures.
The positive effects of the Biobank don’t end at Cornell’s gate, however. This work is also helping scientists around the world study feline genetics. With support from the Cornell Feline Health Center, the Biobank was able to participate in a project called 99 Lives, which collects and shares genome sequences collected from cats at numerous institutions. A genome is the entire genetic information from one individual cat, and by bringing together and sharing data with researchers who explore cat genetics, 99 Lives has accelerated discovery and is making big strides in understanding the genetic basis of feline diseases so the improved diagnostics and therapies can be developed.