Washington, Feb 10 (IANS) Man's best friend the dog is not only unselfish and caring but may also offer clues into a better understanding of our head, according to American researchers.
Researchers relooked at progress in defining the genes and pathways that determine canine skull shape and development, ever since the dog genome was mapped eight years ago.
Dogs can serve as a model for skull growth and shape determination because the genetic conservation between dogs and humans makes it highly likely that craniofacial development is regulated similarly between both species," said Jeffrey J. Schoenebeck, National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), the journal Genetics, reports.
"These discoveries are important for human health and biology, especially for children born with craniofacial deformities," Elaine A. Ostrander, added, according to an NHGRI statement.
In humans these deformities include Apert, Crouzon and Pfeiffer syndromes, where skull bones fuse prematurely causing facial malformations, such as wide-set bulging eyes and broad foreheads, resulting in dental, eye and other physiological problems.
Skull shape is a complex trait, involving multiple genes and their interactions. Thanks to standardised canine breeding which documents more than 400 breeds worldwide, and their distinct morphological features, researchers can disentangle traits such as skull shape, which in many breeds is a breed-defining variation.
"We may find new roles for genes, never before implicated in cranium development and because similar genes and genetic pathways operate in humans, unexplained craniofacial developmental defects may become better understood," said Schoenebec.