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99 (Cat) Genomes

Leslie Lyons at the University of Missouri and her colleagues plan to sequence the genomes of some 99 cats to better understand feline traits like fur and eye color, but also to get at the root of diseases affecting both cats and people, reports Stephanie Lee at the San Francisco Chronicle.

The cat genome — from an Abyssinian named Cinnamon — was published in 2007, but this project, dubbed the 99 Lives Cat Whole Genome Sequencing Initiative, aims to capture even more of the feline genome as well as include a range of cat breeds from all over the world to describe the genetic diversity of cats. And like for people, genetic screening could eventually be incorporated into feline veterinary care.

"When a sick cat comes along, you could genetically sequence it and say, 'Hey, look, this has a variation we've never seen before,'" Lyons tells the Chronicle. "It might give us clues very quickly as to what genes to focus on for this cat's health care."

Lee adds that Americans currently spend some $26 billion on supplies, medication, and veterinary care for their pets.