Friday, January 20, 2017

Why Ankle-Biters Bite

This is from Discover Magazine 2016 Year in Science Issue:

"An unprecedented search for the roots of canine aggression and fear has identified genetic variants that predispose a dog toward such behaviors. And the researchers hope that knowledge could eventually help treat humans with anxiety. The research, published in August in BMC Genomics, compared owner reports of a pet's behavior and genetic data from 30 purebred lines to discover the 16 genome regions. The team also found that two clusters of these genes control different kinds of aggression: one directed at strangers and strange dogs, and the other directed at the owner and other dogs in the household. Dachshunds are particularly prone to a genetic variant that study co-author Carlos Alvarez of Nationwide Children's Hospital calls "freak biology."  That low-riding wiener dog body comes with an increased likelihood of snarling and snapping. Annually, dogs bite more that 4.5 million Americans; understanding the roots of canine aggression is a public health priority. Alvarez cautions, however, that it's unfair to label dogs with the genetic variant as aggressive. Instead he hopes testing leads to better diagnosis and treatment of dogs - and ultimately, their best friends. By knowing which genetic variants pose an increased risk, Alvarez thinks he can determine which  exact cells are responsible - the signaling mechanism - and target them."
Written by  Gemma Tarlach for Discover Magazine