The American Humane Association, the national humane organisation and the only charity working for the protection of both children and animals, has announced a study partnership with the non-profit Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen), based in Phoenix, Arizona.

The work will seek to uncover the genetic basis of obsessive-compulsive disorder in dogs.Doberman-Pinscher It will look first at the causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder commonly found in three types of pure-bred dogs, Bull Terrier, Doberman Pinscher and Jack Russell Terrier. The findings from this Canines, Kids and Autism study could also lead to clues about the origins of such behaviour in children, especially the growing number of those with autism.

Every year, one out of every 88 children in the United States is diagnosed with some form of autism, with these numbers steadily rising over the past decade. Though the instances of children on the autism spectrum are increasing year to year, the amount of funding given to autism research is far lower than with other childhood diseases, and this has led to fewer researchers examining the autistic spectrum. In the new study. TGen scientists will conduct whole genome sequencing to analyse the genomes of the dogs in hopes of pinpointing those genes that might be responsible for atypical behaviours.

The study aims to provide both physicians and veterinarians with new insights for earlier diagnoses and innovative therapeutics. Joining American Humane Association and TGen are collaborators from the Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC), Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and the University of Massachusetts Medical School. SARRC’s previous collaborations with TGen include the consent and collection of nearly 500 biospecimens families with autistic children. Tufts’ Dr. Nicholas Dodman and his team, which includes Dr. Edward Ginns at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is renowned for its work in the area of animal behaviour disorders.

Phil Francis, the retired chairman and CEO of PetSmart Inc. and an advisor to Tgen’s canine research studies, said :”The potential impact of this research for both children and canines is profound. Dr. Robin Ganzert, American Humane Association president and CEO, said: “Dogs are such a special part of our lives, and it is incredible what we are continuing to learn about how our species is linked with theirs. “This unique study in collaboration with our colleagues at TGen will hopefully shed more light on understanding more about autism.”