January Chairman's Report
Dogs initially earned the moniker "man's best friend" as a result of their work alongside man as hunter, herder, or guardian. Today's canine may have dwindling duties on the farm and in the field but a new role has emerged, taking simple companionship a step further and becoming a full fledged family member. Like our human family members, we concern ourselves with our dogs' health and longevity. A positive side effect of our desire to understand more about our pet's well being is research that helps not only the dogs themselves but has profound implications for human health as well.
Man has selectively bred dogs over centuries creating pedigreed breeds with verifiable ancestry. These closely monitored populations, thanks in part to AKC's Compliance recordkeeping standards, make them suitable to study not only canine diseases, but humans as well, since these two species share 85 percent of the same genetic make-up. This heritage, couple with the dog's shorter generation spans and DNA samples collected from the fancy, made the purebred dog the ideal model for genome mapping.
When the canine genome sequencing project was undertaken the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation (AKC/CHF) became the largest non-profit supporter of this research initiative. Once the canine genome was finished, it joined four other completed sequences, including the human and chimp, to give researchers more tools to gain faster genetic results in research to find causes - and thus cures - for diseases.
One such example is the breakthrough discovery on Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis in Tibetan Terriers that led to a landmark stem cell replacement therapy in a California boy who was suffering with the human equivalent called Batten Disease. In addition, there are cardiac and cancer AKC/CHF-funded research projects currently underway that may lead to cross-over benefits for human treatment. Man's best friend giving back in an unexpected way.
In 2006, many advances were made in developing genetic tests for dogs as a result of the canine genome map. Tests were developed for copper toxicosis in Bedlington Terriers and juvenile cataracts in Boston Terriers. Important discoveries were made regarding the transmission of the tick-borne disease Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Genetic markers causing specific illnesses in Basenjis, Standard Poodles, and English Cocker Spaniels were also identified.
Another benchmark for the advancement of canine health and research came last year with the establishment of the DNA Repository. This research database, a collaboration of AKC/CHF and the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) partnering with the Canine Health Information Center (www.caninehealthinfo.org) is a collection of canine DNA samples that will become a major tool for funded researchers worldwide.
We are proud to continue our funding of the AKC/CHF, with $15 million to date and another $1.2 million donation slated for 2007. These dollars have helped fund more than 340 studies in nearly all of the top ten diseases in dogs and aided more than 74 schools and research institutes worldwide including Great Britain, Germany, Australia, and the Netherlands. The correlation between genetic health testing and responsible breeding can never be understated. Because of the genetic tests made available through AKC/CHF, breeders have a wealth of information and resources at their fingertips.
To aid in our mission to advance canine health we also present the popular Breeders' Symposia. These cutting-edge seminars help us educate breeders and the public about canine health, genetics and responsible breeding. The next Breeders' Symposium, presented by AKC/CHF and the American Kennel Club will be held later this month on January 27 - 28 hosted by the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine in Philadelphia. For more information on this exciting opportunity to learn about what man's best friend is up to in the field of canine health go to: www.akcchf.org.
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