London: Dogs may be a great model for understanding the causes of human diseases, especially cancer, scientists say.
Researchers have characterised the dog's epigenome and transferred the results to human cancer to understand the changes in appearance of tumours.
The bond between humans and dogs is strong and ancient. The relationship between the two species has been studied by psychologists, anthropologists, ethnologists and also by genetic and molecular biologists.
In this sense, dogs are a great model for understanding the causes of human diseases, especially cancer, researchers said.
Unlike other mammals used in research, dogs develop cancer spontaneously as humans do and cancer is the most common cause of death in this species, they said.
The dog genome has been obtained in recent years, but we still don't know how is controlled and regulated, what we call the epigenome.
"We have characterised the epigenome level of each nucleotide of DNA of cells from the cocker species spaniel. In these canine cells we induced a morphological change similar to what happens in cancer progression and we have seen displayed significant alterations in the modulation of genes, called epigenetic lesions," said Manel Esteller, director of the Programme for Epigenetics and Cancer Biology (PEBC) at Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), and Professor of Genetics at the University of Barcelona.
"The interesting thing is that when we looked the same dog genes in human breast cancer, epigenetic aberrations occur in the same regions of DNA. Data suggests the existence of common epigenetic mechanisms in both species that have been evolutionarily conserved to change the shape and consistency of our cells and tissues," Esteller said.
The finding was published in the journal Cancer Research.