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The Animal Health Trust (AHT) has launched a new DNA test in the hopes of reducing the number of Border Collies affected by a blinding condition.

The test can be used by breeders to spot a genetic mutation which can cause glaucoma in Border Collies, a painful disease associated with high pressure in the eye due to a build-up of fluid, before breeding.

The condition affects more than a thousand dogs across the UK, and now thanks to the AHT, with funding from Vets4Pets, Border Collie breeders will be able to use this test to reduce the risk of producing glaucoma-affected puppies, whilst maintaining genetic diversity.

The launch of the new test follows a validation process by AHT after research undertaken by scientists at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh. The Institute discovered a variant in a gene called OLFML3 believed to be associated with severe goniodysgenesis (an abnormality with the chamber of the eye) and glaucoma in the breed.

On reading this research, the AHT’s canine genetics team, who has an ongoing research programme looking at canine glaucoma, began to look at how a DNA test could be offered based on the mutation.

Border collie puppy

Hattie Wright, Vets4Pets Research Assistant at the AHT, genotyped a large cohort of Border Collies for the mutation, in order to obtain an accurate measure of the association between the mutation and goniodysgenesis and glaucoma in the Border Collie. These dogs all had their eyes examined, and their DNA collected, by veterinary ophthalmologist James Oliver, and as such their phenotype was measured consistently.

The findings from this validation process replicated the findings of the Institute, meaning that the charity has been able to develop a DNA test based on the reported OLFML3 mutation. 

Dr Cathryn Mellersh, Head of Canine Genetics at the Animal Health Trust, said, “We’re delighted to offer this test to Border Collie breeders and hope in time, through its use, we can lessen the prevalence of this disease in this lovely breed.

Our research has found that the mutation is only associated with glaucoma in Border Collies, so we will publish our data at the earliest opportunity, in the hope that other commercial DNA testing providers will not be tempted to make the DNA test available to breeds other than the Border Collie.”

To purchase the DNA test or find out more about DNA testing, please go to www.ahtdnatesting.co.uk

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