In One More Thing We Have in Common With Cats, Katherine Wu writes about the similarities between feline and human genomes:
Cats, it turns out, harbor genomes that look and behave remarkably like ours. “Other than primates, the cat-human comparison is one of the closest you can get,” with respect to genome organization, Leslie Lyons, an expert in cat genetics at the University of Missouri, told me.
Lyons and Murphy, two of the world’s foremost experts in feline genetics, have been on a longtime mission to build the ranks in their small field of research. In addition to genetic architecture, cats share our homes, our diets, our behaviors, many of our microscopic pests, and some of the chronic diseases—including diabetes and heart problems—that pervade Western life. “If we could start figuring out why those things happen in some cats, but not others,” Lyons told me, maybe humans and felines could share a few more health benefits as well.
Because humans and cats are bedeviled by some of the same diseases, identifying their genetic calling cards could be good for us too. Cats can develop, for instance, a neurological disorder that’s similar to Tay-Sachs disease, “a life-ending disease for children,” Emily Graff, a veterinary pathologist and geneticist at Auburn University, told me. But gene therapy seems to work wonders against the condition in cats, and Graff’s colleagues plan to adapt a treatment for its analogues in kids.