How much do you really know about your own dog? Well, apart from your canine pal is kind, loving, fun and protective, how deep do you go as it relates to the full spectrum, ancestry and makeup of your dog? All this knowledge is possible with your dog’s DNA. With your dog’s DNA, you can help to cure dog diseases as well as participate in the fight against human cancer!
Scientist believe that your Dog’s DNA could hold the clue to the next big step in cancer research and possible cures. The cofounders behind a startup called Embark believe the answer is yes, and they're out to prove it. By collecting and analyzing at-home DNA kits from thousands of pups, Embark hopes to use doggie data to shed new light on human disease.
Brothers Adam and Ryan Boyko cofounded Embark along with two others. They point out that dogs and humans often suffer from many of the same diseases. Examining how these diseases behave in canines could lead to a better understanding of human ailments, and maybe even suggest new avenues for therapeutics. "We've seen time and again that the genes that we identify in dogs — particularly disease genes — are the same gene pathways and in some cases the same mutations as we see in human disorders," says Adam, the company's chief science officer.
The Austin, Texas-based company's main offering is a DNA kit that can tell owners a lot about their dog's genetic history. Consumer DNA testing for dogs certainly isn't a new concept; an owner who wants to know whether her French bulldog has a bit of pug in him can already turn to popular services like DNA My Dog or Wisdom Panel. But Embark claims to take it a step further: Using one small sample of dog drool, its test screens for more than 200,000 genetic markers, including health information, like a dog's risk for more than 100 medical conditions. Owners will also learn about dozens of physical traits, like how much a puppy is likely to shed and how big it's likely to grow, as well as breed composition and where their dog's lineage can be traced geographically.
What really sets the company apart, however, is what it wants to do with the information it collects from customers' pets. Essentially, Embark will be amassing a giant doggie data set that can be used for research into canine genetics and to learn more about canine health and behaviour
Adam believes the next frontier is cancer. "Lots of dogs get cancers," he says. "Different cancers are more prevalent in different breeds, and we know there's a genetic basis. And now that we're starting to do tumor profiling in people and starting to look at them in dogs, we can see there are tumors that show very similar signatures, suggesting the same kind of pathways."