Do Dog Genes Hold Clues to Human Disease?
A team of scientists from Tufts University, the Broad Institute and the University of Massachusetts Medical Center recently zeroed in on a gene in Doberman pinschers that's associated with compulsive behavior like licking and pacing, the Boston Globe reported. Now researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health are taking a close look at that same gene in humans with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Compulsive behaviors are common in certain dog breeds, according to a news article on the Broad Institute's Web site. Bull terriers can chase their tails repeatedly. Compulsive Dobermans may lick or suck their flanks until they develop bleeding and skin infections. "It really is a hindrance for other normal activity and it often doesn't stop at bodily harm," Broad Institute scientist Kerstin Lindblad-Toh said in the article.
To get to the root of the abnormal behavior, the research team took DNA samples from 150 Dobermans, some of which showed compulsive behaviors. They then scanned the dogs' genomes and singled out a gene called CDH2 that seems to be linked to the condition, the Broad Institute reported.
Understanding the genetic basis of compulsive behavior could someday lead to treatments for dogs -- and perhaps for people with OCD, which affects some 2.2 million American adults, according to the Boston Globe.