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The Nation | Science File

Boxer Will Lead Pack in Genome Project

Sequencing will help scientists analyze other dogs and may shed light on human diseases.

May 24, 2003|Rosie Mestel | Times Staff Writer

The competition was stiff, but the winner is now in: A female boxer named Tasha has been chosen out of 120 candidate dogs to be the model for the sequencing of the dog genome, scientists announced this week.

Tasha was selected for practical reasons. Boxers have less variable genomes than other breeds and their genetic information is more easily assembled, said Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, lead researcher for the dog genome project.

The sequencing will be conducted at the Whitehead Institute/MIT Center for Genome Research in Cambridge, Mass., and is scheduled for completion in 2004.

Once Tasha's sequence is done, it will be relatively easy to analyze genomes from a wide range of dog breeds, Lindblad-Toh added. That will help scientists tackle all kinds of interesting questions, such as why mastiffs grow so much larger than Chihuahuas or why retrievers often have creaky hips.

"Sequencing man's best friend is kind of cool, but I think we will also learn a lot about disease," Lindblad-Toh said.

Because of inbreeding, many dog breeds have high rates of conditions such as blindness and deafness. Finding the genes responsible could shed light on the same problems in humans.

Scientists also said this week that they are close to completing a draft of the chimp genome and that a honeybee draft is expected in mid-July.

The sea urchin, too, is coming along nicely, with a draft expected by the fall. A chicken draft should be done by early 2004.

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