Keith Murphy: Canine Genetics

Keith Murphy, Ph.D.
Professor and Chair
Genetics, Clemson University

So eventually we want to be able to use the dog for – to study for its own sake, help it, improve its quality of life by elimination of diseases – and then extrapolate that knowledge and apply it to human hereditary diseases.

We’re working on various neural tube defects such as Spina Bifida; we’re working on an orthopedic disease like Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease that occurs in children and in dogs.  We’re working on pancreatic diseases; we’re working on Cardiomyopathy which occurs in the Great Dane and also in people. We’re working on cholesterol metabolism.

One disease that occurs in the human and the dog is a fatal renal disease known as Hereditary Nephropathy.  People, if they don’t have a renal transplant, die by the time they’re 15 years of age or so. Dogs die by the time they’re two.  We identified the gene that causes this in the English Cocker Spaniel; and through funding from the NIH we’re developing gene therapy.  We’re going to correct the disease in the dog; and if that works, then we’ll go onto human trials; and if we can do it in humans then they won’t need renal transplants.