Man’s Best Friend Helping Research for Kids with Spina Bifida

About four children are born every day in the United States with spina bifida, a birth defect where the baby’s backbone and its surrounding membranes fail to develop properly.  Thanks to animal research and the efforts of researchers at the University of California Davis and the University of Iowa, science has learned one more clue about the cause of spina bifida.

Through the use of dogs, specifically Weimaraners, these researchers identified the gene they believe is a risk factor for spina bifida.  The gene was identified in four Weimaraners with spinal dysraphism, a disorder causing impairment of motor skills and partial paralysis of the legs.  This gene could not be located in other dog breeds but a similar mutation was found in 149 people with spina bifida.

In the online journal PLOS Genetics, the researchers noted about the study, “Dogs are excellent biomedical models for humans since they receive comparable medical care, share our home environment and develop naturally occurring diseases comparable to those in humans.”

To read more about this step forward in spina bifida research, please click here.