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A Dog's Lab

A project at the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute is combining a trove of data being collected on a number of Labrador retrievers with DNA sequencing of the dogs, the Guardian reports.

The Dogslife initiative, launched four years ago by Roslin researchers, is collecting environmental data on a set of retrievers — what they eat, how much exercise they get, whether they have any bacterial or viral infections — to see how those factors influence disease. The researchers are now folding in DNA analysis to develop a Labrador genome, and they've dubbed this aspect of their work the 'Labradome,' the Guardian notes.

"We picked the Labrador for the simple reason that it is the most common pedigree dog in the UK," David Hume, the director of the Roslin Institute, says. "However, the lessons learned from it will go far beyond this breed or indeed for dogs in general."

By comparing the genomes of dogs that develop, for example hip dysplasia or accessory pathway disease — conditions that commonly affect the breed — with ones that don't develop the conditions, the researchers hope to uncover what genes are involved in disease development and how they are swayed by environmental factors. Such findings, they say, could be used to prevent disease in the dogs as well as to breed dogs without disease risk.

Hume adds that he and his colleagues plan to sequence 50 Labradors with a range of phenotypes.