Belgian Shepherd Dogs Genetically Protected Against Diabetes

Posted on May 28, 2015 16:01

According to a new study, a genetic interaction in Belgian shepherd dogs may protect this breed from diabetes. This novel mechanism was found to regulate blood sugar levels by interaction of genes on two chromosomes.

The lead author of this study was Associate Professor Katja Höglund from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Marcin Kierczak and Professor Kerstin Lindblad-Toh from Uppsala University (UU) also took part in the study.

The researchers analyzed the DNA of over 500 dogs to find genetic factors that influenced natural variations of fructosamine in healthy dogs. Höglund said, “To capture this variation in the best possible way, we gathered data from dogs of 9 different breeds, examined in five European countries.”

Nine breeds were analyzed together, but researchers found no link between their DNA and blood values. However, there were variations found when the breeds were analyzed separately. In Belgian shepherds, the researchers identified variations in a chromosome 3 gene associated with fructosamine concentration. They also found candidate genes close to and within the region. PhD student Simon Forsberg from SLU, said, “To better understand why this association is breed-specific, we then looked for areas in the genome where Belgian shepherds clearly differ from other breeds.”

On further investigation, researchers also found a chromosome 5 region that interacted with the region identified on chromosome 3. Kierczak said, “The interacting region harbors three very interesting genes, but the exact mechanism of the interaction remains to be determined. The Belgian shepherd breed has a low risk of developing diabetes and our findings could be connected to a protective mechanism against the disease. Now we are trying to learn more about this phenomenon.”

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