How to Build a Dog
This article on National Geographic Science (my favorite magazine) talks about the recent scientific projects and researches going on about canines. Have you ever noticed just hoe incredibly varied the breeds of dogs are? Every imaginable shape, size, color, personality, and fur length.
Scientists and breeders have, for decades, been breeding dogs to the “perfect” mix or match of whatever their preference is- perhaps this is size, coat sheen, body ratio, or even personality for a working dog- and are now breaking down some of the genetic make-up in dogs to apply this to the human genome and understand our bodies better, and what makes us diverse (or not so diverse) too.
They are now discovering that the difference between a Greyhound’s sleek legs and a Dauhshund’s stumpy ones is just one gene. The same applies to floppy or erect ears. There are an estimated 5,000 breeds of dogs, with about 150 being recognized by the AKC. What is so fascinating to myself and many other scientists is the amazing variety that comes with such a small gene kit, by changing just one gene.
Already, “More than a hundred dog diseases have been mapped to mutations in particular genes, many of them with human counterparts. Those diseases may have a whole array of mutations leading to a risk of disease in dogs, as they do in us. ” This is a great scientific field for us to be involved in now, with the potential to learn more about, treat, and in some cases even cure human genetic disorders. We as humans have been custom breeding dogs for generations in order to come out with the “type” that we want. This is one reason for so many different breeds. By continuing to breed these animals customarily, we are making larger advances into the field of understanding the human genetic system.
And for all you animal rights activists out there, don’t worry. Dogs are not harmed in the breeding or testing process, and all invasive experiments are done on already deceased dogs. Custom breeding has been done for decades, and is not about to stop any time soon.