The Isle of Man’s first genome project, to sequence the Manx cat, has achieved its first milestone with the sequencing of their first cat, Bonnag. Her blood sample was sent off to the University of Edinburgh for sequencing three months ago and the scientists have recently received the DNA sequences back for analysis.
Building upon previous research from the United States, the team have already zoomed in on one gene and pinpointed the exact DNA mutation causing Bonnag’s lack of tail: a deletion of just one letter from her 2.8 billion letter genome. One of the questions the team hope to answer with their research is which mutations are responsible for the differences between rumpy (no tail), stumpy (short tail) and longy (longer short tail) Manx cats. The team hope that a large-scale investigation of Manx cat genomes will point towards genes that could help inform Manx cat owners of their cat’s risk for certain diseases and even aid human medical research.
The volunteer scientists are still aiming to sequence the genomes of at least three Manx cats in order to find the DNA mutations that are specific to the Manx breed and anyone who would like to donate can do so on their website (www.manxcatgenome.com). With the lower cost of genome sequencing the scientists are also interested in hearing from Manx cat owners who are in a position to pay for their cat to be included in the research, in return for a comprehensive report on their cat’s genetic makeup.
Rachel said, “We’re delighted to have reached this point in our efforts and there’s still so much left to analyze. The project benefitted enormously from a major advance in genome sequencing technology in November which brought the cost per cat down from almost £10,000 to less than £1,200. The Manx Cat genome project is entirely funded by charitable donations from the public so this was a major bonus, allowing us to sequence our first cat well ahead of schedule.“
Photo - Bonnag the cat.