Are We Ready for Feline Genomic Medicine?



Wesley C. Warren, PhD

Bond Life Sciences Center, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO



Genomic medicine (GM) offers the potential to more accurately predict disease treatment and prevention strategies by accounting for individual variability in genes, environment and lifestyle. Despite many advances, the use of GM in medical practice is limited in human health. However, advances in the feline reference genome, databases and variant studies will ultimately bring GM to veterinary practice.

Key points

  • Genomic attempts to understand felines include DNA studies that track the history of feline domestication to uncover patterns of migration, origins of modern breeds and unique molecular signatures in feline genomes that were the result of artificial and natural selection.
    • Two questions: What makes a cat genome different from other mammals? Can genetics explain cat domestication?
  • Genomic medicine can be framed by two main narratives:
    • Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) story from humans: Try to apply/adapt that knowledge from humans to cats and see if it can work with common and rare diseases.
    • Oncology: This is where genomic medicine is most advanced; there is good data for the driver genes that cause cancer. Almost all cancers are going to relapse, so having a panel of driver gene mutations can help pinpoint and eliminate the relapse-initiating clones.
  • When will we practice feline genomic medicine? In the near future we’re looking at treating races of cats based on looking at their genomic variants.
  • To prepare for GM in practice, particularly for a feline focus, three key resources are necessary:
    • A high-quality domestic cat genome reference
    • Sufficient sampling of sequence variation across multiple cat breeds and random mixes
    • An accessible community database.

Clinical relevance

Genomic medicine holds great promise for delivering health care based on an individual’s genes, environment and lifestyle. Bringing molecular level medicine to feline practice requires more data before it can be implemented.

This document contains summaries of presentations from the Companion Animal Summit, held May 2-4, 2019 in San Jose, Costa Rica. Please note that these summaries represent overviews of the presentations and may include opinions and research of presenters, which do not necessarily reflect those of the Nestlé Purina Petcare Company.

Produced by the Purina Institute, May, 2019

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