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Alaskan Malamute Research Foundation

Research Goals

AMRF focuses on genetic, or inherited, diseases. Especially dangerous are the diseases caused by recessive genes. The recessive nature of the genetic coding means that only a dog that carries both genes for the disease will be "affected", that is, show symptoms of the disease. It is a simple matter to remove these dogs from the gene pool, so they do not spread the gene.

But even dogs that "carry" only one disease gene, and are thus not affected themselves, could pass that disease gene on to their offspring, making them carriers as well. This allows the gene to spread invisibly throughout the breeding population. Only when a significant proportion of the population is carrying the gene, and carrier-to-carrier breedings begin to take place, will affected puppies be born. At that point it is impossible to know how many dogs must be excluded from the gene pool without some test to determine which are carriers.

For those conditions, like Malamute Chondrodysplasia (MC), where the symptoms are detectable at birth, a "test breeding" program like the one instituted by the AMCA in the early '70s can reduce the incidence of the gene almost to zero. In a program like this, affected dogs are bred to dogs whose genetic involvement is in doubt. If no affected puppies are produced, the questionable dog cannot be a carrier, and is "cleared". Of course this process is expensive, statistically imperfect, and produces litters of carrier puppies that must be cared for or euthanized. And for some recessive-gene conditions, like Inherited Polyneuropathy, where the symptoms may appear as late as 24-months, test-breeding is not practical. That is why a direct DNA test is desirable.

The Foundation has so far funded and/or assisted investigations into Chondrodysplasia (MC), Inherited Polyneuropathy (IP), Late-onset Canine Alopecia (CF), Canine Hip Dysplasia and Cataracts. Future projects may include Day-blindness and Hypothyroidism, or any other apparently inherited condition that Malamute owners can identify. If you have suggestions or questions please contact one of the Board members.

PROJECTS FUNDED:

Malamute Chondrodysplasia
Coat Funk
Inherited Polyneuropathy

PROJECTS UNDER CONSIDERATION (as of Aug'00)

Hypothyroidism Diagnosis Education Project Funding Est.: $2,500 Completion Goal: 2001

Despite publications available, Hypothyroidism is not diagnosed consistently in the veterinarian community. This project's goal will be to accomplish two items:

  1. Publish an Alaskan Malamute Owners guide to the correct diagnosis of Hypothyroidism and educate owners on the symptoms and potential treatments,
  2. Publish an educational diagnosis paper to the veterinarian and university community raising the awareness of the condition, proper diagnosis, and provide references and contacts.

Any future projects for DNA or other type work is dependent on properly identified sample groups and truly understanding the range of the condition within the breed.

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Eye Health Studies Funding Est.: $?0,000 Timing: Future (200?)

A significant amount of interest amongst the Malamute community exists in providing support to DNA work in this area. In addition, a significant amount of research is taking place at multiple universities. The AMRF board has approached this condition with caution for a number of reasons which include the significant expense which currently does not exist in our budget, and the lack of distinctive cataract definition in the research goals being conducted. Among the Research projects in progress:

  • PRA - Dr. Aguirre at Cornell is very close to completing research that will lead to a DNA test for PRA in several Nordic breeds. Dr. Aguirre expects to find the same mutation in the Malamute.
  • Day Blindness - Dr. Aguirre's research will continue into the study of Day Blindness.
  • Cataracts - Michigan State is just beginning research into cataracts as part of the AKC Canine Health Foundation grant, however has yet to limit or define the research to any particular type. The AMRF Technical Advisor has been in frequent contact with MSU, in a consulting fashion, to represent the interests of the Alaskan Malamute, and better understand the focus of the research.

AMRF sees potential opportunities to support this and has not yet defined the role it will fill. Potential options being considered include:

  • Participate in the funding and coordination of DNA sample collection in future cataract studies once the goals of the study is accurately defined.
  • Develop and distribute materials helping to educate malamute owners, AKC, and research groups in the number, types, and prevalence of cataracts.
  • Approach CERF with proposals to broaden the CERF definitions and characterization of cataracts in order to properly identify and classify the condition found in animals. This would help breed clubs to better utilize the data in the understanding of potential for inheritance, progress nature of specific conditions, and future breeding education.

Bloat Project Funding Est.: $?0,000 Timing: Future (200?)

Several other breed clubs are beginning research into the Bloat condition. AMRF will stay abreast of research projects plans and potentially participate in projects which could provide the most benefit to the Alaskan Malamute.

Canine Hip Dysplasia Project Funding Est.: $?,000 Timing: Future (200?)

A large project is funded at MSU at no initial cost burden to the Alaskan Malamute. The project does however need significant participation in the form of family tree DNA samples. AMRF will maintain contact with the project, and help to facilitate a greater number of samples being provided.

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