99 Lives project hopes to apply research data from cats to humans

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COLUMBIA- In genetic terms, humans are almost similar to cats.

According to Genome Research and the Cold Springs Harbor Laboratory press, cats are genetically 90 percent similar to humans. Genome Research also shows that domestic cats possess over 250 hereditary disorders. Many of these disorders are similar to the genetic pathologies that exist in humans.

The Lyons Den laboratory at MU is looking to make the connection between the diseases in cats and humans. The lab's "99 Lives" project aims to genetically sequence 99 cats with the help of blood samples and monetary donations. The lab genetically sequences cats by drawing a small blood sample from the cat. The results will help researchers better understand how to treat genetic disorders in cats as well as humans.

Leslie Lyons, a genetics professor at MU, says the lab hopes to apply the data it gathers from researching cats to humans.

"Because a cat is a mammal and so are humans, humans also have the exact same conditons. So if we figure out a treatment that works for cats, then that treatment could be applied to humans as well."

Lyons says researchers can gain a better understanding of several genetic disorders that are common in cats and humans.

"Blindness, we hear about all the time. We hear about diabetes all the time. Asthma, cats have these exact same problems. "

The cost of genetically sequencing an entire cat is $7,000. Lyons says there are several ways for the community to get involved in the project.

"Any amount of money is greatly appreciated and will really help the project, but also we're looking for people that have a cat that has an unusual health condition and perhaps that is a cat we actually would put into the project."

To learn more about the project or to donate, visit the Lyons Den lab website.