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Smart designer dogs on the way

india Updated: Feb 17, 2009 19:07 IST

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Unlike the biological approach used to create hybrid dogs, it may soon be possible to create genetically engineered pooches with selected traits such as size, colour, perhaps even temperament, says a new study.

While analysing the dog genome, geneticists have identified a handful of genes that determine coat colour, variations in size, as well as some congenital diseases.

Although Elaine Ostrander, a pioneering dog geneticist at the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda Marlyand said it might be possible to genetically engineer designer dogs, but they wouldn't go for it for ethical reasons, reports New Scientist.

Some breeders already use genetic testing to avoid mating dogs that will spawn puppies with congenital diseases, for example, Labrador retrievers with two mutations in a gene called dynamin-1 suffer from a condition where intense activity causes them to lose nerve control of their hind limbs.

According to Ostrander, these genetic techniques can help decide which dogs can mate, and slowly wipe out this mutation over time.