Genetics-based diets and medicine will revolutionize the way we care for our cats. However, we’re still just getting started. Research on cat DNA lags far behind research for humans, dogs, and even mice. Basepaws is dedicated to cat DNA research in hopes to contribute to knowledge about genetic disorders in cats.
Cats can inherit diseases from their parents
Your cat inherited half of her chromosomes from each of her parents, resulting in a unique combination of 19 different chromosome pairs. This DNA shapes all aspects of your cat – from the way she looks to the way she’ll react when you give her catnip.
Unfortunately, DNA also influences your cat’s risk for diseases. More than 250 known cat diseases can be inherited. These diseases include hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, polycystic kidney disease and muscular dystrophy, along with many more.
Although we know that these diseases can be inherited, the actual genes responsible for these diseases are mostly unknown. Basepaws is using your cat’s DNA to find the culprit genes and their physical locations along the 19 different cat chromosomes.
One test – a lifetime of discovery
When Basepaws tests your cat’s DNA, we don’t just look at a few genes. Instead, we generate a file containing your cat’s genetic code. A few weeks after we receive your cat’s sample, we will have converted your cat’s fur into a file that records 27 million individual locations along your cat’s DNA.
A few disease-causing gene mutations are already known: We will be able to ultimately let you know if your cat carries any of these known genes. However, the true promise of the Basepaws community is that we will learn TOGETHER. Your cat’s DNA will help us locate new genes that cause diseases.
We are soon releasing our first report – this will focus on how your kitty relates to other cat species, particularly tigers. As more and more data comes in, we will be able to report on more health and lifestyle conditions.
As more cats participate in the Basepaws project, our discoveries will continue to grow. When Basepaws cats share a unique trait or disorder, we will find out if they also share unique genes. And when we locate these genes, we can let all cat owners know what to expect if their cats also have the same unique genes.
Using cat genetics to save cat lives
Identifying the genes responsible for cat disorders opens a world of possibilities for future treatment options:
- Breeders can use those genes as screening criteria when choosing their breeding cats.
- Scientists can develop medicines that target the exact cause of the disease.
- Cat owners can determine if their cats are at risk for developing a disorder and use preventive care to keep their cat healthy.
- Shelters can use this to help new adoptees understand their new pets better
The future of cat healthcare depends on DNA research today.
Meet Dr. Shan:
Meet the brains behind this project, the cat-loving and DNA-splicing Dr. Shan Zhao. Before spearheading the science at Basepaws, Shan was busy using computers to solve human medical problems. He has an M.D. and Ph.D. and has spent the last decade developing ways to turn health data into practical health advice. He also holds three degrees in math, physics and computer science.
When asked why he’s switched from humans to cats? Although his love for cats is ENORMOUS, humans stand to benefit the most from this project. This is because studying human genetics (in humans) is extremely complicated. Cats live in simpler (yet similar!) environments than humans, with consistent diets and routines. It is much easier for scientists to link genetics with the health of your cat. Cats and humans share 90% of the same genes and suffer from many of the same diseases. Dr. Shan wants to help your cat today, so he can help you tomorrow.
We hope you decide to join our community and sequence your cat’s DNA.
Shan Zhao, Founder, M.D. Ph.D.