Australian researchers at the University of New South Wales just released a groundbreaking report detailing a German shepherd’s entire genetic code. Study authors are hopeful this data could improve the breed’s quality of life and prevent common genetic mutations.
After preliminary scans of roughly 600 dogs, scientists decided to map the genome of a local German shepherd named “Nala.” Not only was Nala fit and active, she showed no signs of genetic abnormalities.
Indeed, one reason scientists were interested in gathering samples from Nala was that she didn’t have the mutation that causes hip dysplasia. Recent statistics suggest German shepherds are particularly susceptible to this disorder, which usually causes extreme pain and difficulty moving.
With Nala’s complete genetic sample and x-rays, vets should be able to more accurately predict the likelihood a German shepherd will develop conditions like hip dysplasia. This new information might even help breeders reduce the risk of hip dysplasia.
Although this is the first time scientists tracked a German shepherd’s genome, there are already a few records of other breeds on file. For instance, geneticists in the early 2000s completed comprehensive DNA scans of a boxer and a poodle.
Doctors involved in this German shepherd project, however, believe their findings are far more accurate thanks to their advanced scanning technologies. Plus, since boxers have a longer history of interbreeding for show, the German shepherd’s genome might prove more useful for tracking the DNA of other canines.
Although study authors didn’t say they would map other breeds’ genomes, they believe their research will inspire other scientists to follow their example. Indeed, a few professors suggested we could have DNA models for most dog breeds within a decade.
German shepherds remain the second most popular dog breed in the USA. Labrador retrievers currently hold the top spot.
Anyone interested in reading the full German shepherd report should pick up the April 2020 edition of Giga Science. This study is listed under the title, “Canfam_GSD: De novo chromosome-length genome assembly of the German Shepherd Dog (Canis lupus familiaris) using a combination of long reads, optical mapping, and Hi-C.”