The CM/SM genome research has been ongoing since 2004 (http://www.veterinary-neurologist.co.uk/research.htm
. Finding the gene/s involved in this complex trait is very challenging because studies suggest some environmental influences are involved. Another problem is the 'late onset' nature of SM (it is a progressive condition and dogs may show no signs for several years). This is why screening dogs over 6 years is so important - both for the breeders and research. In 2008 we received an AKC grant #954 which has enabled us to reach the 'fine mapping' stage in the genotyping. We had hoped the two Cavalier Clubs in the USA would raise awareness of the need for older scanned dogs, so we are particularly indebted to this new initiative, 'Rupert's Fund', that will provide both DNA and valuable data.
Last year the Rusbridge fund 'Syringomyelia DNA Research' was given a CAN$9,500 donation from 'FTLOO' (For the Love of Ollie Fund -- www.fortheloveofollie.com
) thanks to pet owner Sandy Smith. This was used for an 'over 6 year project' in Canada. In collaboration, the Canadian Cavalier Club organised and subsidized the blood work expenses to have a total of 23 dogs scanned and DNA taken for the genome project. We are particularly grateful to Karen Kennedy and Mary Beth Squirrell for arranging this. Most of the scanning was done at Mississauga with Dr J Sykes, providing full length MRIs of very high quality. Two dogs were scanned in Vancouver (at Canada West Vet Specialists).
The aim of the genetic research is not simply finding the gene/s involved but more about what they do and how they do it, and will help with treatments. Learning how the condition is inherited will hopefully give breeders sufficient information to breed away from SM using genomic breeding values (gBVs) in a computerised mate selection developed by Dr Sarah Blott at the Animal Health Trust in the UK. Unaffected parents increase the breeding values of offspring as well as increasing breeders' choices for mates.
The genome research has had contributions from all over the world but more help is needed. Please raise awareness of the need for older scanned dogs and encourage breeders to come forward with existing scans or to have asymptomatic older dogs scanned.