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Cool science is the wave of the future

By Kelley Weir

foundation CEO talks about the next big thing

Advancing the cutting edge of veterinary medicine has been a Morris Animal Foundation priority since its inception in 1948. Today, that priority is no less important, which is why genetics has emerged as one of the most pressing areas of research that the Foundation funds. To date, the Foundation has funded more than 60 studies on genetics for a total of about $6.8 million.

“The study of genetics, today, is at the same stage as radiography was in 1945,” says Morris Animal Foundation president and CEO Dr. David Haworth. “It has the same potential to advance medicine in the future as radiographs did in the last half century.”

According to Dr. Haworth, the future of genetic testing will improve upon current technologies that generally peer only at small portions of genetic material. He expects that, within the next decade, scientists will be able to view the entire genome and will have a deep enough understanding to see all of the changes that take place as a disease develops. Not only that, but genetic testing will be affordable.

“We will be able to not only know what is wrong today but also to predict what will go wrong in the future,” he adds.

“We might even be able to change certain aspects of our genetic makeup.”

Genetic research for animals is on the same path. Current studies, many funded by Morris Animal Foundation, are at the point in their evolution where only specific genes can be examined and mapped one at a time. The goal is not only to map every gene but also to understand how each gene contributes to the larger genetic picture and, most importantly, how it affects health. In this way, human medicine and animal medicine are very similar.

“I have a deeply held belief that in the next 10 years we will have enough tools to usher in a new era of prognostic medicine in addition to diagnostic medicine,” Dr. Haworth says.

It is not just the genetic knowledge that’s important though. The ability to use advanced computers to store, manage and analyze all these data is just as important. There is good news there as well. The sheer computing power expected in the next 10 years should provide scientists with the ability to gather all the necessary data to map and manipulate genes.

“The most important part is what we do with all of that information, and we are getting to a stage where we have both the data and the ability to do something with it,” Dr. Haworth says. “The future of veterinary medicine is pretty cool, and Morris Animal Foundation has a big role to play in that future.”

Posted by MAFon February 17, 2012.

Categories: Animal health, Animal studies, Animal welfare


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