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Towards the Purrfect Treatment

Cats are human’s beloved companions, yet the want of precision veterinary medicine has been a cause for woe for many animals and their masters, who can but look on when their furry friends succumb to illness. Working with Japanese researchers, a research team led by Prof. Chan Ting-fung and Prof. Lam Hon-ming of the School of Life Sciences has recently assembled a high-res full genome sequence for a two-year-old Japanese American shorthair Senzu. The unveiling would drive precision veterinary medicine, making possible individualized treatment as genomic data warrant.

Applying optical mapping, the team uses enzymes to make fluorescent signals at certain places in ultra-long DNA molecules. The patterns thus generated facilitate genome assembly and detection of structural variations. In this sequence, all 19 chromosomes of Senzu have been assembled to near full length. It has high contiguity, with just one short sequence scaffold unplaced, emulating the current genome reference which has around 4,500 unplaced scaffolds. The new genome is also more representative, as the American shorthair is among the most famous household cat breeds and is phylogenetically closer to most modern cats, it being an ancestor cat breed in the America allowed outcrossing with certain cat breeds.