Friday, 8 August 2008

Dachshunds could help discover roots of human blindness

Dachshund. Photo courtesy of Frode Lingaas, Norwegian School of Veterinary Science
We know as dog lovers that some of our pets can seem 'almost human' and just the other day we learned that they have so much empathy with us that they can 'catch' our yawns. However, it now seems we have even more in common with one breed in particular: the Dachshund.

Some people develop a form of blindness caused by cone-rod dystrophies, a result of progressive cell loss in the retina. Sausage dogs, as they're sometimes known, are particularly prone to similar conditions and a research team has spotted a gene which might be partly responsible.

The next step is to work on discovering more about the gene in humans.

Cone-rod dystrophies can first lead to day-blindness, in which vision is affected in bright light conditions, gradually worsening to full sight loss. The Dachshund pictured is wearing dark glasses to help with the early stages of the condition.

Researchers are circumspect about the development because there might well be some complexity to the genetic causes of cone-rod dystrophies (which are quite rare), but the NPHP4 gene, a portion of which seemed to be missing in affected Dachshunds, could be of pivotal importance.

You can find out more about the discovery in the full BBC report.

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