Interested in finding out what makes your cat special? The Feline Genetics Laboratory at the University of Missouri wants to know too. Their 99 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Initiative is about half-way through an ambitious project that will eventually sequence the full genomes of 99 individual cats.
This study of cat genetics will lead to a greater understanding of feline birth defects and inherited health conditions, and improve the veterinary care for all cats. Similar to humans, many feline diseases have genetic causes. The 99 Lives project seeks to create the same type of large-scale DNA database for cats that currently exists for humans.
Researchers are interested in all types of purebred and mixed-breed domestic cats (as well as exotics) to participate in the project. They are also seeking genetic material from cats with specific health concerns like cancer, heart and kidney disease, and diabetes. Tests for genetic diseases can be used by breeders and owners to ensure that carriers do not pass on the disease.
The feline genome sequencing project is already yielding results. A recessive gene that causes a congenital condition called myopathy (or “spasticity”) in Devon Rex and Sphynx cats has already been identified. Affected cats generally do not live past 2 years of age. Inherited forms of blindness in Persians and Bengals are currently being studied.
Check out this video to learn more about the 99 Lives project and how you can help.