Our stretch goal: Maine Coons. The sky’s the limit for awesome cat genetics!

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A Maine Coon with polydactyly. [by Jorbasa, via flickr]

As we posted yesterday, we have reached the full amount needed to sequence BUBs genome. Thanks again to everyone who made this happen! But the fundraiser is still not over! You can still donate on the experiment.com site and we have 5 more days to prove that we can do even more awesome science – with your help! Here’s what we propose to do:

We’ve set our stretch goal to 30.000$ and the money that we raise will go towards Leslie Lyons’ 99 Lives Cat genome sequencing initiative. More specifically, we would like to sequence another cat breed, with traits that resemble those of LilBUB. This will help us understand BUB’s genome data better. At the same time we will get insight into the health and biology of this breed. And after a long discussion with Leslie this afternoon we have settled for Maine Coons.

Here’s why:

1. Like LilBUB, Maine Coons frequently have polydactyly, so we could test if maybe the cause of the polydactyly is the same. Moreover, we’ve already found that BUB has the same mutation as the polydactylous Hemingway cats – and it has been speculated that Snowball, Ernest Hemingway’s first polydactylous cat could have been (related to) a Maine Coon. So, by looking at Maine Coon data we hope to understand more about BUB’s polydactyly – and possibly also her heritage.

2. In addition, about 30% of Maine Coons suffer from a disease called hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). The disease leads to thickening of the muscle walls, and can ultimately result in heart failure, although this is not necessarily always the case. Understanding hypertrophic cardiomyopathy better is important not only for cat health, but also for humans – after all, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the Western world. There’s a mutation in Maine Coons which is known to be associated with HCM. However, not all Maine Coons with this mutation develop HCM, and not at all Maine Coons with HCM have this mutation. So, by delving deeper into the genetics of Maine Coons we will learn more about HCM.

We intend to use about a quarter of the money for a crude, low-resolution genome analysis (a SNP chip, for the scientists out there) of about 50 Maine Coons with and without HCM. This will give us an idea where to start looking in the genome. Once that is done, we would like to fully sequence 3 cats and study the regions of interest in more detail.

We think these are pretty cool goals, combining our love for cats, genetics and human health. If you think so, too, please continue to donate! At this stage of funding, everything you donate we keep (or rather: spend on cat science :).

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