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OCD-Linked Canine Genes

Dogs can suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder just like some humans do, and now researchers have identified a genetic basis for their spastic behavior.

By | February 19, 2014

FLICKR, LIL SHEPHERDDog obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) manifests itself in a variety of telltale behaviors—incessant tail chasing and chewing, to name a couple. Doberman Pinschers, bullterriers, Shetland sheepdogs, and German shepherds all have relatively high rates of the anxiety disorder. Now, examining the genomes of Dobermans, researchers have identified four genes connected to the disorder in dogs, possibly leading clues for what to look for in the human genome. The work was published in Genome Biology this week (February 16).

Comparing portions of 90 genomes of Dobermans suffering from OCD with 60 healthy Dobermans, Elinor Karlsson from the Broad Institute and Harvard University and her colleagues noted several key differences. Scanning the genomes of bullterriers, Shetland sheepdogs, and German shepherds, the researchers narrowed the field down to four genes with high rates of mutations in dogs that tend to exhibit OCD behaviors.

“This is really exciting because psychiatric diseases tend to be very heritable, but finding genes associated with psychiatric diseases in humans has been really difficult,” Karlsson told Discovery News. “The question is: Can we use genetics to pinpoint what the brain pathways are that are going wrong in these diseases? And can we design drugs that target those pathways in ways that are much more specific than we are doing now?”

Indeed, finding an effective treatment for OCD is a great medical need, as current therapies, which typically involve antidepressant medications, only help about 50 percent of patients, both human and canine. Karlsson and her colleagues proposed that if the genes identified in OCD dogs can be linked to pathways involved in human OCD, the dogs may serve as a good model for the disorder.

The new study is “another hard-won rung of the ladder toward unraveling the OCD mystery,” Janice Kloer-Matznick, an animal behaviorist and dog-origins researcher in Central Point, Oregon, told Discovery. Of course, she added, there’s “no single smoking gun.”

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Comments

Avatar of: Doug Easton

Doug Easton

Posts: 6

February 19, 2014

This looks to be very important. What four genes. Is there a link to the paper?

Avatar of: tvence

tvence

Posts: 249

Replied to a comment from Doug Easton made on February 19, 2014

February 19, 2014

Hi Doug,

Thanks for reading! Unfortunately, there's not yet a link for this paper at Genome Biology. We'll update the post and let you know as soon as there is.

Best,

Tracy Vence

News Editor, The Scientist

 

Avatar of: tvence

tvence

Posts: 249

Replied to a comment from Doug Easton made on February 19, 2014

March 16, 2014

Hi Doug,

Thanks again. Genome Biology has published the paper online (http://genomebiology.com/2014/15/3/R25). We've added a link in this post.

Best,

Tracy Vence

News Editor, The Scientist

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