SHCA Trust: Health
The Health arm of the SHCA Trust funds medical research related health and medical issues affecting the Siberian Husky. We also support seminars related to health and medical issues in Siberian Huskies.
Each year the AKC Canine Health Foundation polls breed parent clubs about their top health concerns and research interests. This poll is not scientific but represents the opinions of a group of representatives from the parent club.The Trust is actively involved in two Siberian Reesearch Studies. Although COVID has slowed the time tables on both of these projects, they are still moving forward.
MAPPING THE SIBERIAN GENOME
The SHCA Trust is pleased to announce its funding of a Breed-specific de novo Genome Assembly for the Siberian Husky – a project to sequence (map) the complete Siberian genome. With the original sequencing of the canine genome in 2005, the great diversity of the canine breeds made it apparent that breed-specific mapping is of great importance in the research of diseases of different breeds. While many breed supporters have funded partial sequencing of their breed’s genome (including the Siberian), the research has been very expensive and lengthy and presently there are only a few completely sequenced breed genomes.
This project has already begun with a research team at the University of Wisconsin experienced working with a portion of the Siberian Genome. With the help of a new, state-of-the-art machine the sequencing time will be significantly faster (months instead of years), and should result in the goal of the project – to have the ENTIRE Siberian genome mapped before the end of 2021! This newer technology is expected to yield a clean and exceedingly specific Siberian Husky genome at the end of the project.
This Siberian genome will deliver a roadmap for the further study of breed-specific diseases (such as cataracts, cancer, and others), enable the identification of genetic markers for disease detection, and open up possibilities for future disease treatments. Additionally, since the Siberian is relatively unmarred by human intervention and breeding for recessive traits, it is considered by researchers to be a clean breed associated with past generations and can therefore be useful to researchers studying diseases found in many breeds. Currently there is interest from other Universities to use this new Siberian genome to research lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, and osteosarcoma.
This is by far the most important and far-reaching project the Trust has funded to date, only possible thanks to donations, gifts, and fund-raising efforts. This project is only the beginning. If you want to participate in future research, please visit our website to review donation options. Thank you.
For a Progrrss Report on the Genome Project, Please Click Here: 3/7/2022 News Release
You may ask how this Genome Mapping Project will ultiately help the Siberian. Here is a brief look into some possibilities.
The research plan involves three steps:
Step one is to prepare a “de novo” (“new”)Siberian Husky genome assembly, essentially mapping the breed’s DNA. This step is funded by an SHCA Trust grant, and is being performed by Dr. Gillian McLellan and her collaborator Dr. Peter Muir at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Veterinary Medicine. This step is very near completion (May 2022)!
Step two is to sequentially identify genetic markers (a genetic marker is a DNA sequence with a known physical location) for common diseases. Markers will help us identify disease-causing areas within the genome.
Once our “map” (the Siberian genome assembly) helps us identify location of these disease-related genes, tests can be developed to determine which destructive genes are present in an individual animal. Armed with this information, decisions can be made concerning breeding stock.
There are several disease-related genes ready to be included in step two research, including the identification of a biomarker (or tumor marker) for hemangiosarcoma. Hemangiosarcoma could be the first study, followed by others, such as lymphoma, leukemia, epilepsy loci, and so forth.
Step three is a step into cutting-edge science using microbiomes. A microbiome is a microbial community and the host environment that community inhabits. The skin, gut, and mucosal surfaces of an individual are all part of that individual’s microbiome. A system called the “One Health Approach” studies relationships between human, animal, and environmental microbiomes. This research is changing ideas about the relationships between microbiomes and disease. In step three the canine microbiome will be outlined.
This outline will help studies identify key sources of risk factors for zoonotic diseases. It will also inform pilot studies looking to unlock the mystery of what exactly turns on and off certain gene sequences, causing disease in one individual and not in a littermate (for example, why one puppy in a litter faces osteosarcoma while the rest of the litter is immune).
Although the health of our dogs is extremely important, it will not be the only beneficiary of the Siberian Husky genome project: we humans, too, seek to benefit. This research is of huge significance in zoonotic diseases…for example, bat coronavirus. This research can help answer questions such as, why does one individual develop immunity after the first COVID vaccination, and yet others have no immunity after the third booster? Why are some species affected by the virus while others have no reaction? The answers are there, but we need patience and commitment to find them.
You and your Siberian(s) can make a difference!
With your help and your dog’s hair, you can be part of the first step in beginning to map the Siberian genome. The SHCA Trust Health Chair has written a grant to help a geneticist begin this process. Dr. Jean Dubach will pull the specific gene region that she needs from the follicles of your Siberian's guard hair or whiskers. Although everything is confidential, she would like a pedigree for each dog submitted. Be sure the pedigree is attached to that dog's baggie of hair if you submit more than one. Generations are appreciated, if possible. If you do not have a pedigree for your Siberian just say so, it can still be part of the study.
The Trust is asking all Siberian fanciers to collect their dog's hair and send it directly to the researcher. The cost of a single stamp can go a long way to improve the lives of Siberians everywhere. You can find directions on how to collect the guard hairs, where to send them, and a brief of the study below.
How to Collect Siberian Hair with the Follicle Attached
- The follicle is the small bulb like end of a guard hair or whisker.
- When grooming you can find guard hairs with follicles or you can pluck them.
- The larger, stiffer guard hair is best from around the neck or tail.
- Whiskers are really good – shed ones only. You don’t want to hurt the dog.
- Please do not include the undercoat as it is hard to sort through.
- Place at least 20 hairs with follicles in a plastic bag.
- Blood (0.5 ml) or tissue (pea size) is acceptable if stored frozen and sent in the mail.
- Please include a pedigree with AKC # for each bag submitted. If there is not a pedigree, just say so.
Send samples to:
Dr. Jean Dubach
Genetics Core Laboratory, CTRE Building
Health Sciences Campus
2160 South First Avenue, Rm 026
Maywood, Illinois 60153
For more information about the study, please click here: Evaluating Genetic Diversity
The SHCA Trust encourages Siberian owners to visit the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website – www.OFFa.org - and complete the Siberian Husky Health Survey. Information gathered will be available to the parent club, veterinarians and researchers. Personal information and pedigree information is NOT a part of the survey.
Last update of this page: 03/07/2022.
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