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TGen Joins American Humane Association in Study of Autism Tendencies in Canines

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) — The Translational Genomics Research Institute and the American Humane Association plan to study the genomes of dogs with autistic tendencies in search of genes that may also be involved in autism in humans.

These two lead partners, along with collaborators at several other institutions, are currently seeking private funding to support the project, called Canines, Kids and Autism, the AHA said today.

The goal of the project will be to study certain domesticated dog breeds that exhibit obsessive-compulsive disorder, and potentially apply that knowledge to studying the origins of such behavior in children. The research partners hope their efforts will lead to new insights for physicians and veterinarians in diagnosing and treating patients.

TGen will conduct whole-genome sequencing on three dog breeds in which OCD are commonly found, including the Bull Terrier, Doberman Pinscher, and Jack Russell Terrier, with the aim of identifying genes that are responsible for atypical behaviors.

Joining TGen and AHA are partners at the Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center (SARRC), Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, and the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

SARRC and TGen previously collaborated to collect nearly 500 biospecimens from families with autistic children, and the researchers at Tufts and UMass have previous experience investigating OCD-like behaviors in dogs.

Advisors at AHA will collaborate with the research team and will help design the study and interpret data. This study is AHA's second project involving dogs and children. The association is currently involved in a clinical trial called Canines and Childhood Cancer, which is looking at the biological and psychological effects of therapy dogs on pediatric cancer patients.