There’s nothing on earth quite like the bond shared between dogs and people, which is probably why they make such natural fits as members of the family. And of course, whenever people find new ways to improve their own lives, it’s only a matter of time until those improvements find their way into the lives of their dogs. From reflective wear to 3D-printed prosthetic limbs, new ideas and human technologies are constantly being repurposed and refined to fit the needs of man’s best friend, and the science of yet another technological breakthrough has finally evolved far enough to be added to the list: DNA science.
The human genome was first sequenced in 2001 after more than a decade of hard work by dedicated researchers, but that was only the beginning for the emerging science. Fast-forward to 2017, and DNA technology is now being utilized to assist people around the world. It’s routinely used to help individuals explore their family ancestries in ways never before possible, to free innocent people from prison by presenting new evidence, and to investigate the causes of numerous genetic disorders while paving the way for potential cures.
But, thankfully, humans haven’t been the only ones to benefit from these breakthroughs, and canine DNA science is now being used in a variety of creative and exciting ways. Last year, for example, an elderly man’s service dog was essentially rescued from death row after he was exonerated in the killing of another dog by DNA evidence. Researchers have also utilized DNA to explore the history of canines as a species, with recent studies suggesting that wolves were likely domesticated more than once and in different parts of the world. Some communities are even taking a creative approach to messy poop-and-run issues by getting DNA samples from their community members’ dogs to identify owners who aren’t picking up after their pets during walks.
Just like humans, dogs have long had their own tests that compare the genetic information of a mother and father to determine canine parentage. However, what may be even more exciting to dog enthusiasts is the refined accuracy of the current DNA tests used to determine a dog’s breed makeup. While these tests have been available since around 2008, the breed pools from which leading researchers draw their results have grown significantly over the years, meaning that their accuracy has been honed and refined to now produce unparalleled levels of accuracy.
As the scientific understanding of canine DNA continues to grow, many believe that this new information will lead to breakthroughs in canine healthcare and treatment. Researchers are already hard at work mapping out the disease-causing “problem” genes that exist in many dogs with such projects as the Broad Institute’s DogDNA. After all, the first step to eliminating genetic disorders is to identify the problematic genes, and if that can be accomplished in dogs, the research may soon be used to help humans as well—just another example of man’s best friend living up to his title.