Friday, February 27, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Scientists set out to map genome of cats — 99 of them

cat1W

From left, UC Davis graduate Jennifer Lyons plays with Simba while holding Milkdud, Dr. Niels Pedersen, and head animal caretaker Monica Durden show cats at Durden's office on the UCD on Friday. Lyons will be joining the doctor heading the 99 Lives Cat Whole Genome Sequencing Initiative. Liz Hafalia/San Francisco Chronicle photo

By
From page A7 | February 05, 2014 |

By Stephanie M. Lee
Cats may not have nine lives, as the myth goes, but they do have 38 chromosomes.

And a team led by a former UC Davis professor is trying to understand those genes by sequencing a lot of cats — 99 cats, to be precise.

Leslie Lyons is fond of cats — she is the proud owner of two — but that’s not why she is pursuing this project. As sequencing technology grows faster, more comprehensive and more precise, scientists in general are mapping the genomes of humans, dogs, cows and other mammals.

But Lyons, who now works at the University of Missouri, says the cat genome remains relatively un-deciphered. A full mapping of those 20,000 genes in various breeds could help pinpoint the genetic cause of distinguishing marks, like fur and eye colors, but also of cat health problems, she says. It could even shed light on diseases that can occur in cats and humans alike.

“When a sick cat comes along, you could genetically sequence it and say, ‘Hey, look, this has a variation we’ve never seen before,’ ” said Lyons, who is collaborating on the project with San Mateo company Maverix Biomics. “It might give us clues very quickly as to what genes to focus on for this cat’s health care.”

Right now, it’s too early to tell whether protective pet owners or veterinarians would be willing to fork over the cash to sequence their cats’ genomes, said David Kirkpatrick, a spokesman for the American Veterinary Medical Association.

But pet owners in the United States do go to great lengths to take care of their animals, spending $26 billion on supplies, over-the-counter medicine and veterinary care in 2012, according to the American Pet Production Association.

In the not-too-distant future, perhaps, a trip to the vet could include a DNA test.

“We want to bring the health care standards of our pets to a comparable standard for humans,” Lyons said.

From 9 cats to 99
The project, called the 99 Lives Cat Whole Genome Sequencing Initiative, grew out of an original plan to sequence just nine cats. But Lyon and her colleagues decided that nine lives were not enough to build a truly complete genetic portrait, so they upped the sample size.

The work requires samples from kitties that are spayed and neutered. The cats’ leftover ovaries, uteruses and testicles contain DNA that can be easily extracted.

So the scientists are seeking cat samples from Greece, India, China, Russia, the Galapagos and Madagascar, to name a few. They want all kinds of breeds: the silky-haired Maine Coon and the American shorthair, the spotted Egyptian Mau and the blue-eyed Siamese. They want both purebreds and housecats that are a little bit of everything.

12 racial groups of cats
Like humans, cats belong to different racial populations, Lyons said. Felines from the United States, Britain and Canada tend to match up genetically with each other — not surprising, because most share a fluffy ancestry that originated in Western Europe.

Their genetic profile differs from that of cats in Egypt, which in turn are distinct from their counterparts in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. All in all, there are about 12 racial groups, Lyons said.

“What (humans) really want to do is figure out all the genetic variations in our genomes,” she said. “It varies with where you live in the world and what ethnic group you are, and that’s true with cats, too.”

Assisting in the sequencing are UC Davis, the University of Missouri, Cornell University and Texas A&M University. Funding also comes from Zoetis, an animal health company; the Winn Feline Foundation, a cat health nonprofit; and Procter and Gamble, which makes cat and dog food.

An Abyssinian named Cinnamon was the first cat to be genetically sequenced in 2007, but the technology then was more primitive and picked up only about 60 percent of her total DNA.

The technology Lyons uses now will pick up virtually all of it, but mapping each genome will take weeks or months and cost about $8,000. Sequencing all 99 whiskered creatures will generate a huge amount of data — 168 terabytes. (A typical desktop computer has 1 terabyte of capacity.)

All that data will be uploaded into a cloud-based website that will allow anyone to view, search and annotate it.

“They can share that information very easily among researchers, rather than having to ship it around to researchers from lab to lab,” said Dave Mandelkern, president and co-founder of Maverix Biomics, which is operating the website.

Implications for humans
The data could have implications for humans who suffer from illnesses such as polycystic kidney disease and spinal muscular atrophy — diseases that also affect cats.

More immediately, the project could help researchers like Niels Pedersen, a UCD professor emeritus who helped with the sequencing. Pedersen, for example, is trying to better understand the genetic causes of feline infectious peritonitis, a fatal illness in cats.

“Using the tools we had at the time, we can see that there are some genetic factors that might be important,” he said. “To really define them … we really need to move to the whole genome sequencing.”

— Reach Stephanie M. Lee iat [email protected]

Comments

comments

San Francisco Chronicle

.

News

 
New greenhouse will add to ‘Farm to Mouth’ program

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Learn about pollinators, gardens and honey at Yolo Basin fundraiser

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
Fire damages South Davis home

By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Can you give them a home?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
For the record

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

Explorit: Humming right along

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A3

 
Flower arrangers feature S.F. designer

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Celebrate Africa on Saturday at I-House

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

 
Gerber nominations close Saturday

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Chamber explores how to pay for Davis’ needs

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Wolk and Dodd team up to provide Napa earthquake tax relief

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Robb Davis to speak about homelessness, energy

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Spring sing-along is March 4

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Documentary on immigration issues will be screened

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Learn about your brain on March 14

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
A fill-up mishap

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

Two free yoga classes offered March 12

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Take a night walk at Cache Creek

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Class of 1970 plans 45-year reunion

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

 
Bicycle safety course to be offered in Davis

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Adopt a household for Bridge to Housing participants

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

 
Workshop will teach sustainable gardening methods

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

 
.

Forum

Tired of all of this

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Start early to build healthy dental habits

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

 
Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: B6

No extra cost for containers

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

 
Oral Health Project launches

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

Here an H, there an H

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

 
Cavalier attitude about bike safety

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B6

.

Sports

Aggie women fall to 4th after lackluster showing

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Lady Devils are on to the SJS semis

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Blue Devil boys expect a spike in production

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Inquiring minds want to know about Aggies

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

Encouraging start for DHS boys tennis team

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Off day for Aggie men at UCSB

By Kim Orendor | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Late goal lifts Red Wings over Sharks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B4 | Gallery

 
Watney struggling at windy Honda Classic

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B12

 
.

Features

.

Arts

International Film Series to present ‘Jaffa’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

 
Monticello announces March schedule

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

The Artery presents ‘Stepping Into Nature’

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
YoloArts’ Gallery 625 presents ‘The Poetry of Dots’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10 | Gallery

‘Focus': A sharply conceived caper

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

 
The Woodland Opera House announces 2015-16 season

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A12 | Gallery

.

Business

Nissan’s Z remains an affordable performer

By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3

 
Car Care: Simple DIY steps to protect your car through all seasons

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

 
.

Obituaries

Dieter W. Gruenwedel

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
George Miller Jr.

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Death notice: Celia E. Recchio

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Vernon E. Burton

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Comics: Friday, February 27, 2015

By Creator | From Page: B5