-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, April 22 (HealthDay News) -- The same gene mutation that
causes a fatal neurological disease in Tibetan Terrier dogs also
causes a hereditary form of Parkinson's disease in humans, a new
This finding, which was aided using the DNA of a Tibetan Terrier
named Topper, could one day lead to a treatment for early-onset
Parkinson's, according to the University of Missouri
When Topper reached the age of about 5 years, he began to show
signs of behavioral changes, such as increased shyness. Soon after,
he began to lose muscle control and then developed what his owner
described as "terrible" seizures. After Topper was euthanized, his
DNA was studied.
The investigators were able to use Topper's DNA to identify the
gene mutation that causes adult-onset neuronal
ceroid-lipofuscinosis (NCL) in Tibetan Terriers.
While the mutation causes NCL in these dogs, it also causes a
hereditary form of Parkinson's disease in humans, the researchers
The findings mean that Tibetan Terriers can be tested for the
gene mutation to prevent them from passing it to the next
generation. It also may be possible to use dogs with the gene
mutation to test experimental treatments for Parkinson's disease in
humans, the researchers pointed out in the report published in the
June issue of the journal
Neurobiology of Disease.
"Dogs and people suffer from the same diseases, and it's much easier to discover gene issues in dogs because of the unique genetics of pure-bred dogs," Dennis OBrien, a professor in the veterinary medicine and surgery department, said in a university news release. "Because we have a medical school and veterinary school near each other, we can find the genes in the dog and then find out if they cause a similar disease in people."
Other symptoms that show up in Tibetan Terriers with the gene
mutation, usually around age 5, include dementia, vision problems,
loss of coordination and unprovoked aggression.
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