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Can DNA Testing Save Dogs? What Sequencing is Telling Us About Diagnosing and Treating Cancers, and How We Can Breed Healthy Litters

February 13

4:00 pm PT

This talk is eligible for CEUs from: CCPDT - Behavior, CCPDT - Training, IAABC, KPA


The growing popularity and accessibility of dog DNA tests are contributing to a wealth of new scientific information. While we’re just beginning to understand what this new information might lead to in the future, it’s already becoming clear that perhaps one of the biggest mysteries of all – how to diagnose and treat cancers in dogs and then, ultimately, in people.

As exciting as that is, we, of course, want to avoid the need for cancer treatment in the first place! What can we do to ensure sound breeding programs with happy, long-lived puppies? The answers lie, at least in part, in these DNA tests as well.

Presented By:

Elinor Karlsson

Elinor Karlsson, PhD, (she/her) is associate professor in Bioinformatics and Integrative Biology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and director of Vertebrate Genomics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard. Her research combines new technology, citizen science and the power of evolution to investigate how DNA works. Dr. Karlsson has a special interest in dog genetics, and her international Darwin’s Ark project ( invites all dog owners to enroll their dogs in an open data research project exploring the genetic basis of dog behavior, as well as diseases such as compulsive disorders, food allergies and cancer.

Dr. Karlsson’s research also includes Zoonomia (, an international effort to compare the genomes of over 240 mammals, from the African Yellow-spotted Rock Hyrax to the Woodland Dormouse, to identify critically important segments of DNA. In collaboration with Zoo New England, she is developing tools that uses genomics to tackle heritable diseases, like heart disease, common in some zoo populations (a project dubbed “Zoonomics”). Elinor received her B.A. in biochemistry/cell biology and her B.F.A. (Bachelor of Fine Arts) from Rice University, and earned her PhD. in bioinformatics from Boston University. She was a postdoctoral fellow with Pardis Sabeti at Harvard University before starting her research group at the University of Massachusetts.