Genome-wide association studies (GWAS) of DNA from Nova Scotia duck-tolling retrievers (NSDTRs) have identified five genetic loci that predispose this breed to an autoimmune disease similar to systemic lupus erythematosis (SLE) in humans. "We know that SLE in humans is caused by many genes and were therefore not surprised to find several risk factors that contribute to the disease in dogs," said Maria Wilbe, a doctoral candidate at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences in Uppsala and lead author of the article. The results provide clues as to where researchers might look for corresponding SLE-related disease genes in humans. The results also demonstrate why dogs can serve as highly useful and efficient models for identifying genes for multigenic diseases and related pathways in humans. "Our results indicate that the homogeneity of strong genetic risk factors within dog breeds allows multigenic disorders to be mapped with fewer than 100 cases and 100 controls, making dogs an excellent model in which to identify pathways involved in human complex diseases," said Dr. Hannes Lohi, of the University of Helsinki and Folkhälsan Research Center in Finland, a co-leader of the project. As the result of two genetic bottlenecks—domestication from the wolf and breed formation--the members of any particular dog breed tend to share much longer stretches of DNA with each other than do members of heterogeneous human populations or even members of relatively homogeneous human sub-populations.
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