Guide Dogs: Genetic Study Begins to Create Best Possible Dogs to Help People | Sciences | New


More than 3,000 trainee puppies across the UK will have saliva swabs collected in seconds and sent for DNA sequencing. Scientists will then carry out what is believed to be the most in-depth study of canine genes ever undertaken, the Born to Guide project aimed at providing the most comprehensive picture to date of the link between canine genetics, health and genetics. The behaviour.

This data will be used to guide the charity’s breeding program and ultimately increase the success rate of the puppies that become fully qualified working guide dogs.

Experts from the association are working alongside staff and volunteers, project partners and academics, such as those from the University of Nottingham on the project.

Dr Tom Lewis, Head of Canine Genetics at Guide Dogs, said: “When we are raising puppies we strive to make sure they are as healthy as possible and to provide the best training to give them the best possible results. better chance of becoming a life changing guide. dogs for the visually impaired.

“We have already implemented extensive health testing for our breeding dogs and we want to build on that success and find more ways to identify damaging health issues. By raising a guide dog that is less likely to develop an inherited disease, we can keep them in a vital working partnership and ensure a better quality of life for the guide dog and its owner.

“Guide dogs provide invaluable independence and companionship to thousands of people across the UK, and we need more.

“This is why Born to Guide is such an important project for our charity – it will allow us to choose our breeding dogs with more scientific knowledge than ever before and to prepare our future litters for success.

“We are also interested in determining whether we can use genetics to identify dogs that are more likely to qualify as guide dogs, or to tailor the individual training we offer and improve a guide dog’s suitability with potential owners with a variety of lifestyles. “

Guide Dogs was assisted in the project by pet food brand Royal Canin UK & IRE, which provided seed funding for the proof-of-concept phase, including DNA collection and storage.

The association will explore a number of other collaborations to support the project.

Born to Guide is Guide Dogs’ latest initiative, as it seeks to build on its 90 years of experience in training and breeding dogs for the visually impaired.

Staff keep in regular contact with association volunteers and guide dog owners, and if dogs develop behavioral or health problems, these are recorded and can then be linked to the dogs’ genetic information.

Guide Dogs will use the database of 3,000 complete genome sequences and combine it with their internal health and behavior data.

They will then use artificial intelligence technologies and machine learning to identify relationships between genetic sequences and any health problems, however minor, that develop in their dogs.

Scientists will also map the data against dog behavior, which will provide insight into the complex relationships between genes and how dogs develop throughout their lives.

It is hoped that the data from the project will be shared more widely to support the scientific community at large and the dog population.

Dr Lewis added: “Born to Guide is one of the most exciting projects the charity has ever participated in.

“By using artificial intelligence, we can better understand the genes that are present in the best guide dogs and what makes them such amazing partners for people with sight loss. “

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