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jessica hekman

Hi Deanna. I’m going to answer some of your questions as one of the DA researchers. I’ll let other team members answer some of your other questions.

2) Currently we are looking at some morphological traits (size, coat color), lots of behavioral traits, and focusing on food allergies for health traits. However, we are actively working on developing a health portal so we can start collecting more health info and start studying that. I actually have a meeting about this later this afternoon with another researcher.

3) Genes are linked to phenotypes in studies that go across all the breeds we have. We aren’t currently looking at traits that are breed specific, but if we started looking at some of those, we might focus on specific breeds. What we expect to produce is something like “this mutation in this gene affects this trait,” and we should then be able to say which breeds that mutation appears in, at least in our dataset.

4) Not specifically at this time, but we want to! We are very open to collaboration. And all our data will be freely available to anyone who wants to analyze it.

5) At this point, we’re not looking at health data, so we’re not really looking at stuff that has strong effects. In other words, we don’t currently expect to produce information like “your dog has a very high risk of heart disease.” (If we did produce results like that, we’d tell owners.) We more expect to produce results like “this mutation, along with many many others, affects personality like so,” and since the actual effects of such a mutation on its own would be very low, we probably wouldn’t tell individual owners (it would lead to too much misinterpretation). But who knows! We haven’t published any such mutations yet so who knows how things will work when we do. We do want to start giving more info back – things like the alleles that affect size and coat color – so that’s what we’re focusing on for now.

Feel free to ask questions.

Jessica Hekman, DVM, PhD
Darwin’s Ark Researcher