A team of internationally recognised veterinary specialists in animal genetics and animal behaviour are committed to promoting animal health and welfare.
Our expert contributors
Associate Professor Paul McGreevy
Associate Professor Paul McGreevy is a veterinarian with a passion for animal behaviour and welfare. In 1999, he and Emeritus Professor Frank Nicholas published a discussion document on practical solutions to the welfare problem presented by pedigree dog breeding.
In 2004, he launched the Listing of Inherited Disorders in Animals (LIDA) a content-rich website designed to collect, organise and disseminate information on the prevalence of inherited disorders among Australian cats and dogs.
Paul is a recognised specialist in Veterinary Behavioural Medicine and has received many prestigious awards for his contribution to research in animal behaviour and welfare as well as his innovative approaches to education and teaching. More information..
Frank Nicholas is Emeritus Professor of Animal Genetics. He is the creator and curator of Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals (OMIA) an annotated catalogue of genes, inherited disorders and traits in more than 135 animal species. OMIA provides up-to-date information on all known inherited disorders in dogs (approximately 440 in total, including around 130 that are due to a single gene, for which the actual DNA mutation is known in around 70).
OMIA provides the “backend” for LIDA which is the tool for collecting, organising and disseminating information on the prevalence of inherited disorders among Australian dogs and cats. Frank is the co-author, with Paul McGreevy, of a paper on solutions to welfare problems in dog breeding. Frank also co-authored Higgins Nicholas Editorial an editorial written after the screening of the documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed in the UK.
Claire Wade is Professor of Animal Genetics and Computational Biology. Claire recently returned to Australia from the USA where since 2004 she has played a key role in the development of new genomic resources for dogs.
These include major roles in the analysis leading to the Canine Genome Sequence (Nature, December 2005), the development of three canine gene mapping arrays (Two for Affymetrix and one for Illumina), and the mapping of several genes for canine diseases leading thus far to three commercially available genetic tests for genetic diseases (Parathyroid tumors in Keeshonden, Rod-cone dystrophy in the Wire-haired dachshund, and Degenerative myelopathy in many breeds).
Professor Wade has a keen interest in medical and behavioural gene mapping projects that will provide affordable tests to improve the lives of all dogs.
Peter Williamson is Associate Professor of Genomics in the Faculty of Veterinary Science. He has expertise in physiological genomics, immunogenetics and molecular cell biology. He recently initiated a Program in Canine and Feline Genomics in the Faculty, which brings together research scientists, veterinarians, and research students to enhance interdisciplinary research efforts. His current research includes investigations of the molecular basis of inherited diseases in dogs, and he leads the Canine Biobank Project(pdf), a research effort to develop a resource for improving the health and well-being of Australian dogs through studies of the canine genome.
Peter’s research team is collecting a large number of samples from Australian dogs to understand gene variation that exists in Australian dogs and the impact of the differences between dogs. You are invited to give consent for your dog to take part in a research study of Australian dog genetics. Download Participation sheet (pdf)
Associate Professor Rosanne Taylor is interested in inherited neurological disease in animals and exploring new strategies for therapy. Her work characterized new inherited neurological diseases in animals, including Krabbe, Batten and Motor Neuron diseases, fucosidosis, Hereditary Sensory Neuropathy and Sly disease (Acta Neuropathologica, Am J Med Genetics, J Small Anim Pract).
In canine fucosidosis early treatment, before onset of clinical disease, ameliorated the disease, with restoration of a normal life span using cell transplant and enzyme replacement therapies. In mucopolysaccharidosis type VII in mice transplantation of neural stem cells, combined with gene therapy, prevented the development of this progressive brain disease (Exp Cell Research, Nature Medicine, J Neurochemistry, Nature, Gene Therapy).
Her Sydney research group has shown that neural and mesenchymal stem cells engraft and differentiate in Krabbe disease (J Cytotherapy, Trans Proc, J Neurochemistry). Recent research student studies have revealed apoptosis in canine hereditary sensory neuropathy, canine fucosidosis and Krabbe disease, and demonstrated that inflammatory damage is an important feature of lysosomal disorders of the brain. Additional new research directions include lactation biology (BMC Genomics) and veterinary education (Higher Educ).
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Associate Professor Rosanne Taylor
Peter Thomson is an Associate Professor in Veterinary Biometry. He has a broad interest in the application of statistical methods to a wide range of biological areas, including epidemiological, ecological and agricultural research. However, his main area of research is in statistical genetics, particularly in the area of developing appropriate statistical methodologies for mapping genes (Quantitative Trait Locus, or QTL mapping) and others areas of gene mapping. He also works on developing appropriate experimental designs and statistical analysis tools for use in genetic microarray studies for gene function. As well as his work on statistical genetics, he has also collaborated widely across the faculty on many research areas, including companion animal welfare, animal behaviour, animal reproduction, and veterinary epidemiology. Currently he and one of his PhD students, Bethany Wilson, are conducting important research directly relevant to some of the welfare issues associated with a canine inherited disorder.
In addition, Peter has had extensive experience in teaching of statistics and experimental design, from junior undergraduate level to postgraduate level.
(PhD student) Optimizing the way in which we rank breeding dogs
Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is an important developmental disease of domestic dogs, affecting the stability of their hips which can often lead to chronic joint pain and lameness. It is a common disease in many dog breeds and is widely considered a significant welfare concern. Because CHD is caused by a complex interaction of many different genes and aspects of a dog's environment from its conception onwards, preventing puppies from being born at increased genetic risk of CHD is more complicated than simply looking at the hips of possible parents. Ideally, screening of potential parents will involve a survey of the hips of a large number of both close and more distant relatives. Using mathematical models widely used in livestock industries worldwide (including Australia), the results of this survey of relatives can be correctly integrated to calculate an index called an Estimated Breeding Value (or EBV) which gives a more accurate ranking of breeding dogs. Veterinary graduate Bethany Wilson is in the third year of a PhD project to develop protocols designed to optimise the calculation of such EBVs, given the unique challenges of CHD.
Bethany works under the supervision of Associate Professor Peter Thomson. This project is a significant work-in-progress which they, with many others including Emeritus Frank Nicholas, work towards.
Her work has been made possible by the provision of data from the German Shepherd Dog Council of Australia and the Australian National Kennel Council.