One of the big advantages with a continuos development within molecular technology techniques and tools to deep dive into the genetic coding of DNA, are the possibility to learn more about the genetic makeup of our breeding stock, and the possibility to breed with knowledge. The last couple of years we have had a massive increase in available genetic tests for different genetic health issues, and with the development of next generation sequencing, these kind of tests will increase in a drastic way, probably just in a few years. This new technique will give us the tools and possibilities to screen our breeding stock and find the genes that are involved in development of different inherited health issues. In rhodesian ridgeback we have had commercial tests available for several years to screen for different kind of color, DM (degenerative myelopathy) and bleeding disorders. Recently, a group of researchers at projectDOG in the US have sequenced the full genome of rhodesian ridgeback with EOAD (early onset adult deafness) and furthermore identified a set of mutations that are considered to be highly interesting for the development of EOAD. As I am more than average interested in molecular biology, as it is my profession, I decided to submit samples from Kiwi and Sheriff to the ongoing project, and I am happy that the results came back as “highly confidence: clear” for both of them. This means that Kiwi or Sheriff will never produce offspring with deafness caused by this mutation, and my A-litter are all clear.
However, I am not to concerned about dogs being carriers of genes that codes for different types of health issues, as no dogs (or humans for that matter) will be clear for all health issues. It’s been said that a dog in average carries 6 genes that codes for some kind of health issue, and exclusion of known carriers from breeding will only narrow our gene pool and in worst case induce more health issues, and also more severe health issues. Molecular biology and genetic screening will give breeders the possibility to breed with knowledge, and prevent producing affected individuals – without narrowing the gene pool. These tools will not give the answer for how to breed, but it will provide the breeders with information, that used WISELY could help improve the genetic health of the breed.
Another example of how the development of molecular biology will affect dog breeding in the future, is full genome sequencing and the use of known genetic markers to screen for a wide range of known health-issues. I submitted samples from Isi, Sheriff and Kiwi to a company in Finland named MyDogDNA, just because I was curious of what kind of information they could provide. I got the results back, and not surprisingly it wasn’t really that much information to get from it. All my dogs was simply clear for all 150 hereditary diseases the tests screened for. However, one should be aware that this does not mean that my dogs are not carrying any kind of hereditary diseases, because they most likely do. But many of these diseases are caused by breed specific mutations, and the genes have been found during breed specific studies. This simply mean that the mutation which are screened for in some breeds would not be the mutation that will generate that specific health issue in other breeds. But I think that within a couple of years, we will see a tremendous development within this area, and hopefully have a tool to help us breed healthier dogs. When this day comes, the breeders will have a new challenge in how to use the information these tests are generating, without narrowing our gene-pool and without loosing good old common sense. But I am sure looking forward to seeing what the future holds regarding the use of molecular biology and genetic testing in dog breeding.