Researchers have largely decoded the DNA of an Abyssinian cat, a step that may aid the search for treatments for both feline and human diseases.
The work is published in this month's Genome Research journal.
The DNA of about two dozen mammals has been unraveled, including dogs, chimps, rats, mice, cows and, of course, people. Cats were added to the list because they get more than 200 diseases that resemble human illnesses -- for example SARS, diabetes, retinal disease and spina bifida, said one of the researchers, Stephen J. O'Brien of the National Cancer Institute. Knowing cats' genetic makeup is expected to facilitate vaccine and treatment research.
The genetic map covers about two-thirds of the DNA of a research cat named Cinnamon who lives at the University of Missouri in Columbia. More complete results are expected next year, O'Brien said.
The full complement of an organism's DNA is called its genome. In cats, as in people, it's made up of nearly 3 billion building blocks. The sequence of those blocks spells out the hereditary information, just as strings of letters spell out sentences. Decoding or "sequencing" a genome means identifying the order of the building blocks.
The new work identified 20,285 genes in the cat. Humans are thought to have perhaps 20,000 to 25,000.