Diabetes affects 1 in 300 dogs and is fatal without insulin therapy. However, diabetes risk varies across breeds, with some breeds being more susceptible than others. For example, Samoyeds are at high risk, Labrador retrievers are at moderate risk, and Boxers are at low risk.
Researchers have been investigating the genetics of canine diabetes for several years. One of the key findings is a Labrador-specific mutation in the gene KCNJ11. This gene plays a critical role in regulating insulin, and mutations in this gene are one of the most common causes of neonatal diabetes in people.
The good news is that this mutation may also open up new possibilities for treatment. In people, mutations in can often be treated with oral sulphonylureas, which are pills that help the body produce more insulin. This means that there is the potential for Labradors with this mutation to be treated with oral medication instead of insulin injections.
In this talk Marsha Wallace of the Wellcome Centre for Human Genetics shows how investigating the genetics of complex diseases like canine diabetes can help us to create targeted approaches to treat these conditions. By understanding the genetic factors that contribute to diabetes, scientists can develop new treatments that are more effective and less invasive.
NOTE: Please leave your own pups at home as the only dogs permitted to the event are working or assistance dogs. Thank you!
Marsha Wallace a geneticist and bioinformatician working to understand the genetics behind complex diseases like cancer and diabetes. She obtained her doctorate degree in Genetics from Cornell University, and current work involves a joint partnership between the Wellcome Centre of Human Genetics at the University of Oxford and the Royal Veterinary College. Her passion in research is diving into genomic data because it shows the big picture – mechanisms of disease susceptibility, drug resistance, and exploits to beat the disease. She's drawn to the cutting-edge and fascinated by the blurred line where science meets sci-fi.