MyDogDNA 2.0 - New content and more sophisticated reporting system

A year ago we lived exciting times. The MyDogDNA pilot project, the very first dog's genome-wide panel testing and diversity analysis was about to start later in the Spring. Close to 2000 dogs from 50 breeds participated in the analysis. The pilot project not only gave birth to a whole new DNA testing service and platform, but to a whole new forward-thinking community of dog owners, breeders and Breed Clubs. Now, a year later, the second release of MyDogDNA testing concept is at hand. I am pleased to be with you to guide to the next steps to our improved reporting system of MyDogDNA 2.0, including technical details, more comprehensive content and other new features!

MyDogDNA test has set a new standard in the canine DNA testing market, and shows the inevitable direction that shifts the entire service model from single genes to genome-wide testing, providing more comprehensive understanding of canine disease risks and breeding potentials.

New testing standard: genome-wide information from individuals within the breed context

The growing number of available single gene tests made possible by international canine genetics research is transforming DNA testing from single gene tests to more comprehensive panel testing. Panel testing of genetic mutations has been called for by renowned experts within the research field as the next generation testing concept that would finally enable cost-efficient screening for the multitude of known hereditary disorders and a better understanding of their prevalence in today's dog breeds. With its comprehensive and cost-efficient analysis of the dog genome, the MyDogDNA canine DNA analysis aims to fulfill this need. It is the very first DNA testing service available - to any dog owner - that combines disease gene testing with an advanced measurement of genetic diversity and relationships, including breeding lines and lineages.

While reducing the disease frequencies, the improvement of overall genetic diversity remains as the single most important target in breeding programs and cannot be efficiently approached without the advanced understanding of the genomic structures in the populations. The MyDogDNA test has been developed to analyse, interpret and provide this complex information in an understandable form to improve the health and well-being of our beloved pets.

The wealth of information gathered from more than 7000 genomic regions of each MyDogDNA-tested dog requires a unique database combined with an advanced bioinformatics and online reporting system. Real-time, interactive reporting provides the most holistic view available on the market to the tested dog's genetic properties, helping owners and breeders to understand not only their dogs' health risks but also the genetic structure and relationships of the entire breed. For the first time, the owner or breeder is able to see her/his dog in relation to the other dogs in the breed or breed groups. This is a substantial new feature in genetic testing and we have developed fancy tools to visualize the data. 'The clustering' of the dogs not only tells about the historical breeding practices in the breed but also provides basis for the future development of the genetic basis of the breeds.

I want to spend a minute to highlight the importance of the diversity data previously available only to scientists. The understanding of the genetic relationships is crucial for the improvement of the breed's health. Our visual graphs in the MyDogDNA  report illuminate the genomic structures within a breed and in comparison to other breeds. You may find quite remarkable differences between lines and across countries and this all serves to identify "new blood" for the improvement of the diversity in future puppies. Inbreeding is damaging for the breed, and we need to find ways to more sustainable breeding programs. Dogs simply deserve it. And you have now a great tool in MyDogDNA test to study your breed structures by yourself! This should also assist the breeding work in clubs.

All test results stored within the MyDogDNA database are confidential and their sharing is fully controlled by the dog owner. We have built additional functionalities in the MyDogDNA online system to encourage breeders to network and share both phenotypic and genetic information. With MyDogDNA service you become part of the global canine community. Do you dare to share and show off your dogs to others? Your dog might have genetic potential that interests other breeders around the world and you may get a view from the fellow dogs' genomes too! This is exciting and possible now.

Panel testing as a discovery tool

The new version of MyDogDNA test includes several new genes in the panel. This is a significant addition to our comprehensive panel and brings relevant tests for more than 20 new breeds. The MyDogDNA test content is superior in the market and for a very attractive price.

One of the strenghts of the new panel testing concept is that it enables novel discoveries and widens our knowledge about the presence of known hereditary disorders in dogs. During the first six months of the pilot service, the MyDogDNA test revealed several known mutations in breeds in which these have not been previously encountered. New findings in additional breed emerge in almost every genotyping run.

There are at least two main reasons to screen for many known mutations in the same panel test. First, although many mutations are breed-specific or affect a limited number of breeds, this is the only cost-efficient approach today to test any dog for the growing number of individual mutations known within breeds.

Second, despite actively ongoing research around the world, no one has ever tested for all of known mutations in all breeds. Academic research is often limited to a few breeds available during the study at hand. Strikingly, as demonstrated already during our pilot study, some of mutations originally published as breed-specific appear to be widespread and common in other breeds as well. These discoveries are important because unknown mutations can potentially be severe existing or emerging health risks. Once these mutations are revealed, breeders are empowered to control their prevalence within breeds.

The breed-specificity of the mutations has got a severe hit. Personally, I would not be anymore satisfied to have only single genes tested in my dogs. In the light of the pilot discoveries, there is a fair chance they might carry other risk alleles and I would want to know that.

New mutations found in new breeds have to be validated for each breed as discussed in more detail in the MyDogDNA Technical Sheet. I also want to stress that despite the breadth of the analysis, the MyDogDNA test panel delivers information only about the listed mutations behind the known diseases and traits. This means that it does not screen for the entire dog genome nor provides answers in terms of known inherited diseases that cannot yet be genetically tested. Not yet. But, this possibility is lurking behind the corner, and we are exploring how to get seriously engaged in it in future. Get on board to follow us!

Follow the diversity, not only disease genes

A genome-wide analysis provides a tangible view to a dog’s genomic structures including its diversity and traits. The beauty of the MyDogDNA test is that it does not analyze only the individual dogs but visualizes also the breed or breed groups' genetic structures. The MyDogDNA visualization of genome-wide measured diversity shows heterozygosity levels within and across breeds illustrating how an individual tested dog relates to that information.

The maintenance and development of the genetic diversity is of utmost importance for maintaining the health, vitality and breeding potential of our breeds. Each breed suffers from a multitude of conditions of varying genetic complexity and it is difficult to control genetic health only by focusing on the control of individual disease mutations in specific conditions. While setting up a breeding program for eradicating a disease, selection may result instead in an increase in frequency of other conditions. Therefore, the development and enrichment of overall allelic architecture remains an important goal in any breed. Breeders should use the latest genetic tools to identify “new blood” or alleles within the breed in different lines or across countries, or use controlled crossbreeding.

Genetic lineage

With MyDogDNA’s reporting a normal dog owner has a chance to see the tested dog’s genomic structure in relation to the other dogs in the breed, or across breeds. This analysis is based on the measured genome-wide data, with the high number of investigated SNP markers providing an accurate high resolution view. The plot provides multiple lines of useful information for breeders and breed clubs for improved understanding and development of their breeds. First, MyDogDNA analysis enables identification of different hidden sub-populations within breeds, including breeding lines such as working- and show line dogs. Second, genetic differences and distances of dogs between countries can be visualized. This is useful, as "new blood” from other countries may be valuable for maintaining and increasing a breed’s genetic diversity and expanding the gene pool. Third, knowledge on the origin and “purity” of their dog is of interest to breeders and dog owners. The MyDogDNA analysis helps to evaluate whether a dog clusters among the “core” group of dogs of the breed or stands out as an ‘outlier’. Outliers may have a “mixed” genetic background. On the other hand, ‘outliers’ may bring important genetic diversity into the breed when used for breeding, which is why identification of such dogs is important and supports breeding strategies that aim at preserving genetic diversity.

The breadth in which MyDogDNA visualizes diversity data was previously available only to researchers, but now this information can be made available to any dog enthusiast. Genetic diversity and relationship reporting in the MyDogDNA database is real-time, relative, dynamic and interactive. Are you sure, which breeding line your dog comes from?

MyDogDNA platform offers a reliable service

Based on the pilot study, the MyDogDNA research team has prepared a robust documentation that opens up the technology used in the analysis, explaining also the key validation steps passed by the MyDogDNA array. The MyDogDNA Technical Sheet is available as a PDF (download here). Please, read it carefully to understand the approach, its principles and recognized limits of the test.

Although the document is comprehensive, I want to include a few remarks about some key features before introducing the new reporting architecture of the test results.

The MyDogDNA test panel design is based on recognised scientific literature and includes 100+ canine diseases and traits (coat colour, coat type, size, etc.) from publicly available Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals (OMIA), PubMed and MEDLINE databases. All assayed mutation sites have been defined according to the information provided by the retrieved original publications and the database entries.

The genetic diversity and relationships are assessed with over 7000 carefully selected markers covering each of the 39 chromosome pairs in the dog genome. The markers were selected from the public SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) databases generated as part of the dog genome project and utilized in the development of the widely used Illumina Canine HD Beadchip arrays. Additional markers were selected on other important chromosomal regions, including chromosome 12 around the DLA (dog leukocyte antigen; major histocompability complex [MHC]) -region for better coverage of this particular genomic region with a known functional importance.

The MyDogDNA analysis uses a custom-designed beadchip array, which is run on the reliable and widely utilized Illumina Infinium HD Ultra platform (‘a golden standard’ in the market). The vast majority of the designed assays directly measure known mutations, including point mutations or small insertions and deletions. Each disease and trait marker is replicated up to three times on the array to ensure accurate and reproducible results. A separate standard DNA fragment analysis is included to provide an STR (short tandem repeat) –based unique DNA profile using internationally approved ISAG (International Society for Animal Genetics) and AKC (American Kennel Club) marker panels for DNA identification and parentage verification.

For everyone interested in more details of the technology possibilities, I recommend you take a closer look at the MyDogDNA Technical Sheet available as a PDF download.

New reporting architecture helps to understand the data

The MyDogDNA 2.0 includes improvements in the reporting architecture to improve the understanding of your dog's or breed's genetics. We have created new categories including ‘Summary’, which gives you a quick glimpse of the key data. The rest of the categories are ‘Disorders’, ‘Traits’ and ‘Genetic diversity and relationships’.  We have now paid extra attention to develop the ‘Disorders’ category. For the clarity, we have separated the test results in to three subcategories: ‘Known disorders in the breed’, ‘New potential disorders’ and ‘ Additional tested disorders found in other breeds’.

There are several reasons for this improvement. First, the original literature does not list many mutations in each breed yet but our testing service expands the list with additional breeds. These new discoveries have to be validated to understand their significance. We use a two-staged approach in the validation process: technical confirmation by another technology such as sequencing and clinical validation. The same mutation may not cause the same disease in the second breed. Therefore, it is important that we together with the breeders follow up the discoveries to understand their true significance for the breed to avoid unnecessary changes in the breeding plans. You will find marks in the report to follow the status of the new findings.  Please read more about the validation approaches in the technical sheet we have prepared.

Breeding tool proposes best matches for breeding purposes

The genome wide analysis generates huge amounts of data from each tested dog. It would be impossible to sort it all out manually. The disease reports alone with all the scientific documentations we have created would print a thick book for the customer.  Other challenges would then appear: How to utilize the information in the breeding plans? How to compare the data from 7000+ genomic loci from your dog to the rest in the database? It takes a big computer. But we have done this to help you breed genetically more diverse puppies. We developed a Breeder tool, a mathematical genius, to do all the calculations for you, and then rank the tested dogs according to the genetic difference and disease carriership. I believe you also want to combine two genetically distant dogs (of course otherwise suitable for breeding) that do not carry the same disorders. That’s what the Breeder tool does. And it works better more dogs we get to the database.  Finally, the Breeder tool has also other fancy features: it allows you to advertise your best buddies to the world and gives you a button to contact the ones you are interested in. People still breed dogs and we want them to find each other. This is important since you may have lost diversity in your hometown but there might be a great bitch or sire waiting across the border.  Now you can find, contact and share more information with other breeders to come up with best breeding choices for the health of the dogs!

MyDogDNA test is a great tool

The great advancement of the technologies affects the genetic testing in all species. The new approaches have revolutionized the breeding programs and health checks in many species, including many production animals. The resolution of data and its understanding will only improve by the time with new applications and tools. This will greatly benefit the health and well-being of animals in future.

Dogs are no exception. The MyDogDNA concept makes it a reality.  Responsible breeding always involves careful investigation of both the phenotypic (personality, conformation, skills) and genotypic (carried diseases and diversity), characteristics of the dog before the breeding decision. The new version of MyDogDNA test provides the best assistance in the genotype analysis in the market. Benefit from this opportunity.

I hope you enjoy our new service. We are proud of it!