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Kitty Genomics

Cats are catching up to their traditional canine rivals as an initiative to sequence the genomes of 99 cats is taking off, Nature News' Ewen Callaway writes.

The first cat genome, from an Abyssinian called Cinnamon, was reported in 2007, though it took until 2014 for a high-quality version to be reported, Callaway notes. The first dog genome, meanwhile, was published in 2005, and dogs soon had a head start in genetics and genomics research as kennel clubs helped match dogs to projects.

But cats, too, can help researchers understand not only their own diseases, but also human ones, Callaway says. Leslie Lyons of the University of Missouri notes that mutations linked to polycystic kidney disease are found in the same gene in cats and people, and that cats come down with diseases like type 2 diabetes, asthma, and retinal atrophy that are similar to human versions of the disease.

Leslie started the 99 Lives initiative to sequence a number of cat genomes, and the project started by Leslie Lyons of the University of Missouri is raising money any way it can to sequence a number of cat genomes. So far, it has sequenced some 56 cats, including fancy breeds, ones with specific diseases, and a parent-offspring trio.

In addition to studying feline and human diseases, Callaway says cat genomes could be used to explore domestication and how housecats differ from wild cats.