DNA Banking: An Investment in the Future

Welcome to the 21st Century! From a “bank” filled with money, we are planning a “bank” filled with DNA. Both banks offer a secure future.

Banking is a tradition as old as mankind. Saving whale’s teeth and ornamental jewelry to barter was merely one factor in the development of banking. From coins to paper money, mankind has used banking as a means to “heap or pile up” security for the future. Now, breed clubs and science have joined together to offer a new means to bank on the future–banking for the preservation of DNA needed for analysis at a future time. The long-term stability of DNA provides an ideal way to gather and store the resources we need to guarantee future good health for our breed.

Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the permanent genetic blueprint that determines every heritable trait of a living organism. DNA analysis is an increasingly important source of medically useful information. Breed clubs that are banking DNA know that the rapid advance of DNA diagnostic capabilities will eventually provide information about the diagnosis of a disease state, or of a carrier state. These are tools for the 21st Century breeder, which are priceless. Can you imagine a world filled with healthy dogs!

One common misunderstanding about DNA analysis is that it will be used to breed out colors or to malign an individual dog. That is the thinking of a 19th Century breeder with little or no understanding of current scientific advances and the opportunities they provide. DNA analysis can detect carriers of genetic diseases like sebaceous adenitis, VKH, vWD, pemphigus and lupus, as well as dogs that will become sick. If you know you have a carrier, you can use that information to screen and select a non-carrier for breeding. Right now, breeding is blind (as are some Akitas!); selection based on breed type ignores all scientific conclusions that errors in DNA code are the cause of most disorders. In other words, it’s what you cannot see -the genes and chromosomes that are more important than what you can see-type.

Here are just a few advantages to DNA analysis:

  • An understanding of spontaneous mutations.
  • Knowledge of the probability of breeding two carriers of the same disease.
  • Reducing the frequency of all diseases.
  • Early detection of a disease allows for early treatment. In some diseases, early treatment will prevent blindness.

The Akita has an opportunity to invest in the future. The University of Missouri’s Animal Molecular Genetics Laboratory has offered us an opportunity to establish our own DNA Bank. As samples are received, DNA will be extracted and stored until the Genetics and Health Committee of the Akita Club of America can make recommendations for research projects that will improve the health of all Akitas.

  • The first 100 samples will be banked at no charge; after storage of the first 100 samples, the parent club will be charged $10 per sample. Samples submitted for funded disease research are accepted without charge and are not included as part of the “first 100 samples” total.
  • For each sample submitted, 1/2 of the DNA would be available for canine research at the discretion of the University of Missouri, and 1/2 would be used at the discretion of the parent club and/or sample donor.
  • A health survey, phenotype information, and pedigree will be requested with each sample. A form to evaluate phenotype will be developed by the parent club and the AMGL. No data will be made public in such a way that the identities of individual dogs or their owners are apparent.
  • The preferred sample for DNA isolation is whole blood. Frozen semen, or tissue samples (from surgery or autopsy) are also acceptable. For research purposes, cheek swabs will not provide enough volume of DNA to be useful at this time.
  • We agree to store the DNA samples at the University of Missouri for a minimum of 5 years. If samples need to be moved after that time, we will give the parent club at least 3 months notice so that arrangements can be made for a new facility to continue storage of the samples.

We have not yet accepted this offer. We want to know what you, the membership, want to do. This is your club, your breed, and your decision. Setting up a bank is a waste of time if there will be no deposits! We must work together, pool our resources and energies to conquer inherited diseases.

Genetics and Health Committee