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Genetics and spinal defects.

Researchers at UC Davis and the University of Iowa have identified a gene related to neural tube defects in dogs that may be a risk factor for the condition in humans. The defects affect the brain, spine or spinal cord, and can cause spina bifida, which results in incomplete closure or development of the spine and skull.

As part of the study, researchers conducted genome mapping of four Weimaraners with spinal dysraphism, which causes impaired motor coordination or partial paralysis; 96 dogs without neural tube defects and 500 dogs from six other breeds. The DNA samples were from household pets rather than laboratory animals.

Identification of the breed-specific gene may help diagnose spinal dysraphism in dogs and enable Weimaraner breeders to use DNA screening to avoid the mutation in breeding, the researchers say. They also tested 149 samples from human patients with spina bifida and found six cases of the mutation but say more studies are needed to confirm if it is responsible for neural tube defects. Their findings were published in the journal PLOS Genetics.

Safety issues with costumes that obscure vision aside, some question whether dressing up dogs for Halloween makes them objects of derision.

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Title Annotation:SHORT TAKES
Publication:Dog Watch
Date:Oct 1, 2013
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