Animals with unique traits open window into understanding human diseases

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Naked mole rat. Image credit: Smithsonian

From a bat’s wings to an elephant’s cancer resistance, an interdisciplinary team of scientists at University of Utah Health are using animals’ unique traits to pinpoint regions of the human genome that might affect health.

The research team scoured the ‘junk’ sections of five animal genomes — elephant, hibernating bat, orca and dolphin, naked mole rat and thirteen-lined ground squirrel — to identify regions that evolved rapidly. The team identified thousands of accelerated regions in each animal genome.

The researchers identified elements in the:

  • elephant genome linked to DNA repair that could help in the study of cancer resistance;
  • bat genome linked to wing development that could help in the study of hand and feet abnormalities;
  • dolphin and orca genome linked to eye development that could help in the study of cornea development, as well as elements linked to adaptation to high pressure environments that could help in understanding blood clotting disorders;
  • thirteen-lined ground squirrel genome linked to coloration/pigmentation that could help in study of albinism and Leopard Syndrome; and
  • naked mole rat genome linked to eye development that could help in the study of glaucoma.

“This method allows us to shine a light on nature’s potential solutions to disease across the entire animal kingdom,” said co-author Joshua Schiffman, M.D.

Read full, original post: Mapping the Genome Jungle: Unique Animal Traits Could Offer Insight into Human Disease

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