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Dog Genome Debuts Online

By Kate Ruder

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Tasha the Boxer.
Scientists funded by the US National Institutes of Health have completed the genome sequence of a boxer named Tasha and deposited it in an online database to be used by researchers around the world.

Although the sequence is available now, it will be several months before the researchers publish an analysis of the dog genome and a side-by-side comparison of the dog and human genomes.

Interest in the dog genome is high because dogs and people get many of the same diseases, including cancer, epilepsy, and heart disease. The genomes of dogs and humans are roughly the same size.

Tasha hails from Upstate New York. The boxer was chosen over about 60 other breeds because it has relatively little variation in its DNA, which is a factor in assembling a genome sequence.

The $30 million project began in June 2003 and was funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute. The works was carried out at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Agencourt Bioscience Corporation in Beverly, Massachusetts.

In addition to Tasha’s DNA, the researchers sequenced stretches of DNA in nine other breeds of dogs, four wolves, and a coyote. They plan to compare these stretches of DNA to pinpoint genes that may cause disease in different breeds of dogs.

The boxer sequence is available at GenBank, the database funded by the US National Institutes of Health, and will be distributed to public databases hosted in Europe and Japan.

Tasha is not the only dog to have its genome sequenced. In a separate project three years ago, scientists at Celera Genomics in Rockville, Maryland, sequenced the genome of a male standard poodle named Shadow.

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