Man and dog: could research of shared disease help both species? 

Science and Health

Looking at a heart condition that affects both humans and dogs, a recent study indicates that the two species may be able to beat it together.

The study was published on Monday in Genome Medicine, an open-access peer-reviewed medical journal that focuses on medical genetics.

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) is a serious cardiac condition. Furthermore, the condition affects both humans and dogs. 

In some instances, DCM is connected to genetic, hereditary factors, and while researchers have identified a number of genes that may be linked to the heart condition in people, finding its exact cause remains elusive.

Certain dog breeds are also susceptible to DCM. Dobermanns and Great Danes are among the most vulnerable.

Three Labrador retrievers named Sadie, Tess and Yuki, and a Golden retriever named Samson, help detect people infected with coronavirus in Hawaii. (credit: Courtesy)

“The situation with Dobermanns is serious in terms of both their health and breeding,” said Hannes Lohi, one of the researchers on the project, according to a subsequent press release. “The disease has been studied from various angles for decades without significant gene discoveries. Better diagnostic tools are needed, particularly in early diagnostics. Our new research might improve the situation.”

Additionally, in these breeds, DCM’s symptoms, as well as the manner in which it progresses, share similarities to the way the disease manifests in people.

A large sample of dogs

Using a sample of 540 privately owned Dobermanns, both with and without the disease, the researchers were able to identify two separate genomic loci associated with typical DCM expressions.

The two candidate genes, RNF207 and PRKAA2 are known for their roles in cardiac action potentials, energy balance, and shape.

The genetic mapping done by the research revealed some key findings. For instance, previously, it was unclear if the Dobermanns exhibiting different symptoms were suffering from DCM or a variety of ailments. Additionally, specific genes that were associated with various cardiac risks were able to be highlighted.

There is potential for great significance to this research because, as dogs with DCM share similar symptoms and genetic causes with people who have the condition, insights may be gained from studying the heart condition in dogs.

Findings from such research could then theoretically be directly applied to further researchers’ understanding of how to treat DCM in humans. 

Such efforts may also advance cardiac research and yield new approaches for developing therapies for DCM.