Cats Are Not Much Appreciated. Think again.


Leslie Lyons is a veterinarian and feline geneticist. He is also a cat owner and general cat partisan. “Cats rule. Dogs flow.”

This was not the case with research money and interest in the genetics of diseases in cats and dogs, in part because the number of dog breeds offers variation in genetic disorders and perhaps because of a bias in favor of dogs in general. However, a professor at the University of Missouri, Dr. There are many reasons why cats and their diseases are invaluable models for human disease, Lyons says. This week she covered the cause of feline science in an article. Trends in Genetics.

“People tend to love or hate them, and cats are often underappreciated by the scientific community,” he writes. But he says that in some ways the organization of the cat genome is very similar to the human genome, and that cat genomics can help understand the large amount of mammalian DNA that does not make up genes and is not fully understood.

Among the developments that benefit people in veterinary medicine, he pointed out that remdesivir, an important drug in the fight against Kovid, was first used successfully against a cat disease caused by another coronavirus.

He is the director of the 99 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Initiative, and as part of this project, he and a group of colleagues, including Wes Warren of the University of Missouri and William Murphy of Texas A&M University, recently The cat’s most detailed genome to date, which transcends the canine genome.

“For now,” said Dr. Lyons.

Last week, identifying themselves as Team Feline, Dr. Lyons, Dr. Warren and Dr. I spoke to Murphy. Dr. Lyons was visiting Texas and spoke with two colleagues about why cat genomes are important for medical knowledge.

I report on animal science and have admitted to Team Feline members over the years that I write more about dogs than cats. Dog-cat rivalry in genomic science is mostly a benign rivalry, but just to assess what I was getting myself into, I first asked about scientists’ unscientific approaches to cats and dogs.

Speech edited for length and clarity.

First, personal preferences:

William Murphy: I have cats and dogs as pets, but I prefer cats.

Wes Warren: I am a dog owner. Unfortunately I am allergic to cats.

Leslie Lyons: He has a very expensive dog that is constantly in trouble.

Why did you take action to write the article that introduces the cause of feline science?

Dr. Throughout my career I’ve been trying to understand that humans can provide really important information if we can understand that our everyday pets have the same diseases as us and what makes them a little bit better, how their genomes are built.

Do you have high-quality genomes of various cat species beyond the domestic cat?

Dr. Lions and tigers, Asian leopard cat, Geoffroy’s cat, we already have half a dozen species with really good genomes that are even better than dog genomes at this point in time.

Dr. Until today. In fact, it was of better quality than the human reference genome until very recently. The goal is to have the complete encyclopedia of the cat’s DNA so that we can fully understand the genetic basis of all traits in the cat.

Dr. For example, the allergy gene that Wes is allergic to. We totally understand this gene now. We can even remove it from the cat to produce more hypoallergenic cats, or at least to understand what triggers the immune response better.

How is feline disease a good model for human disease?

Dr. What we discovered is that different types have different health problems. We really have to choose the right types.

Dr. We know that dogs get cancer more often than we do ourselves. Cats don’t get cancer very often. And it’s a fascinating evolutionary story. So are there signals or clues in the cat’s genome that allow us to better understand why cats get certain types of cancer and to understand the differences between dogs, cats, and humans?

What about the cats that are the subject of the research?

Dr. Genomic research is great because maybe all we need is a blood sample. And once we have the blood sample, we don’t have to experiment on an animal. We actually observe what animals already have. We work with diseases that already exist.

What about wild species?

Dr. High-quality genomes for feral cats can aid their species’ survival plans and recovery in the wild.

Dr. We see half a dozen health problems in wild felines. We have a study on transitional cell carcinoma in fishing cats, hereditary blindness in black-footed cats, and polycystic kidney disease in Pallas cats. Snow leopards have terrible eye problems, possibly due to mating in zoos. So understanding their genomes can help us stop these problems in zoo populations, and it will also help people with the same conditions.

How about ancient DNA and cats? A lot of work has been done on dogs on this subject. How does this progress in cats?

Dr. A few groups are moving forward with ancient DNA. I studied some mummified cats and showed that the types of mitochondrial DNA we find in mummified cats are more common in Egyptian cats today than elsewhere. So the cats of the pharaohs are the cats of today’s Egyptians.

To shift gears: I’ve always been a dog person but I’m considering getting a cat. Any tips?

Dr. Take two. They will be friends. And give them something to scratch. Otherwise, it will be your sofa.


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