Canine Phenome Project  •  Animal Molecular Genetics Laboratory
University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine By Elaine Azerolo and Jana Caraway


What is the purpose of the Canine Phenome Project?
The purpose of the Canine Phenome Project is to establish a DNA bank with supporting data for use by researchers to identify the genes responsible for canine diseases and other breed characteristics.
Why is a DNA bank needed?
Research to find the genetic cause of disease depends on having DNA samples available from a large number of Wheatens representing a cross-section of the breed. Having DNA and data readily available will help attract researchers to study diseases occuring in Wheatens.
Why is the Canine Phenome Project important to Wheaten owners?
For Wheaten owners, it is an opportunity to store DNA from Wheatens for future use by researchers interested in finding the genetic cause of Protein Losing Enteropathy, Protein Losing Nephropathy, Renal Dysplasia, Addison's and other diseases.
Why should I participate now?
Collecting samples from your dogs now guarantees that their DNA will be available if needed for individual testing or future research. It is especially important to get samples from elderly or ill dogs now.
How does the Canine Phenome Project work?
It receives blood samples, extracts the DNA, and stores it for use in approved research. It also collects information about the individual dog contributing the DNA. Online survey forms are completed by the owner to record health and other information. The owner may update information at any time. Data on each individual dog is kept confidential unless the owner authorizes access.
Which organizations support participation in this project?
Participation in the Canine Phenome Project is supported by the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America (SCWTCA), the SCWTCA Endowment and the SCWT Genetic Research Fund.

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Who may participate?
All purebred Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers are encouraged to participate. This includes: healthy Wheatens and Wheatens with medical conditions; Wheatens with AKC registration, with foreign kennel club registration and those who are not registered; Wheatens from any country; and Wheatens of any age as long as blood can be safely drawn.
Which kinds of medical conditions are of interest?
All medical conditions are of interest. Diseases to be researched will be determined by the diseases represented in the DNA samples and the diseases for which funding is available. The first research planned, the Wheaten Sibling Pairs Study will focus on Protein Losing Enteropathy and Protein Losing Nephropathy.
What do I need to do to participate?
Enroll your Wheaten online at, complete the health survey online, donate a blood sample either through your veterinarian or through a group DNA collection clinic and pay the processing fee.

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Why is a blood sample needed instead of a cheek swab?
For a DNA bank, samples need to be top quality so that they are suitable for all scientific applications and will remain useful in long term storage. Blood is considered the optimal source for high quality DNA. Poor quality DNA may not replicate accurately and may not work well in some applications.
How much blood is needed?
A 5 to 10 cc sample of blood is needed. This is a small amount, approximately one teaspoon. When collecting from a young puppy, a 3 cc sample is adequate.
Why does the blood have to be shipped overnight with cold packs?
This method produces the highest quality DNA in the largest quantities. Heat and time are the enemies when converting blood into DNA. For a DNA bank where long term storage and use for multiple research projects is the goal, it is important to start with the best possible quality.
Is the blood sample processed to produce DNA immediately or is the blood sample frozen?
Blood samples are processed immediately.
How is the DNA stored?
The DNA is stored frozen and can be stored frozen indefinitely.
How long can blood be refrigerated before it is shipped?
It is ideal for samples to be refrigerated no more than 3 to 4 days. The shorter the time a sample is refrigerated before it is shipped and processed, the better the quality and quantity of DNA. In an emergency, samples may be refrigerated up to 7 days. Freeze samples which must be kept longer before shipping.
Can frozen blood be used?
Yes, if it is kept frozen all of the time. The sample must be kept frozen during shipping also. List how long it has been frozen on the sample, so DNA processing can be adjusted for better results. Freezing does reduce the quantity and quality of the results.
Can other types of samples be used instead of blood (tissue, puppy tail tips, or frozen semen)?
Yes. DNA can be extracted from tissue, tail tips and semen samples. They must remain frozen during shipping. They will be stored frozen until needed for a specific study. Then they can be converted into DNA. Extracting DNA from these samples is a more complex process than when using blood.
Can the FTA Elute DNA card be used instead of sending blood?
No. DNA from the cards can not be used. The research community has not been successful using the cards to map genes or for SNP analysis. The cards can be used successfully for some genetic tests after a mutant gene is found.
Do I need to notify the University of Missouri Animal Molecular Genetics Lab when I ship a blood sample?
No. If the samples are being shipping within the United States you do not need to notify the University. Contact them for special instructions if you are shipping from another country. If a large number of samples (i.e. from a clinic) are being shipped you may notify them as a courtesy.

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What is the fee for processing the DNA?
There is a $40 per sample processing fee. The SCWTCA Endowment will pay half that fee for the first 1000 samples. Owners will pay $20 per dog.
Is there an additional fee for storing DNA?
If a DNA test is developed, will there be a fee?
Yes. If the DNA is already on file at the University, the fee for the test will be discounted.

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What information will I need to enroll my dog online?
You will need the breed, registration information if available (registered name, registration number, sire's and dam's names and registration numbers), dog's call name, sex, birth date, titles, and microchip or tattoo number. Include as much information as you have available. Information can be completed or changed at a later time.
May I change or update the information I enter online?
Yes. Owners may update and change information online at any time. Owners are encouraged to update health information annually or more often if there is a significant change.
Is a photo required when enrolling?
A photo is not required, but may be included to personalize your dog's page.
Can the breeder or co-owner enter data on a dog in the online records?
The account name and password are required to enter data on a dog. The simplest way for the breeder or co-owner to enter data is to initially enroll the dog in her name as an authorized agent if not the owner. It is usually more accurate if only one person enters and updates records for an individual dog.
Can a computer be used at the site of a blood collection clinic to enroll dogs online?
It is ideal for dogs to be pre-enrolled by the owner on their own computer prior to the clinic. If that has not been done, a paper information form can be sent with the blood sample and the dog can be enrolled online later. In the future, it may be possible for a clinic organizer to obtain an event password so that multiple dogs can be enrolled from one computer on the day of the clinic. Later each individual owner will need to request that the dog be transferred to their account and password.

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Will information about my dog be made public?
No. Information about individual dogs is kept confidential. Owners may choose to make information on their dog available online or choose to keep it private by marking the appropriate response when enrolling their dog.
What does it mean if I agree to share information about my dog online?
Agreeing to share information means that the dog's identification profile (call name, registered name and number, titles, sire, dam, birth date, sex, date of survey completion) and photo (if any) will be visible to anyone selecting Find a Dog.
Will health information be revealed by the Canine Phenome Project?
No. Individual dog health survey responses will not be revealed.
Will names and pedigrees be attached to the DNA?
All information about the dog including the pedigree and the owner is confidential. The data about the dog and the DNA sample number will be recorded together for use by researchers. Descriptive information about the dog contributing the DNA is essential for the DNA to be useful for research.
Will the SCWTCA Board, the SCWTCA Endowment Board, the SCWT Genetic Research Fund Board or SCWTCA Health Committee members be given access to health information about my dog?
No. Information about the individual dogs is confidential.

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Who owns the DNA?
The University Of Missouri College Of Veterinary Medicine Animal Molecular Genetics Laboratory owns the DNA. The lab is headed by Gary Johnson, DVM, PhD. They are committed to sharing DNA with qualified researchers and to working with national breed clubs through the Canine Phenome Project.
Where will the DNA be stored?
DNA will be stored at the Animal Molecular Genetics Laboratory, University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine at Columbia, MO.
Who will decide how the DNA will be used?
The University of Missouri Animal Molecular Genetics Laboratory will determine how the DNA is used. Their policy is to work collaboratively and to share DNA and data when possible.
Will the SCWTCA, the SCWTCA Endowment or the SCWT Genetic Research Fund determine how the DNA is used?
No. They will not determine how the DNA is used. They will each decide whether to help fund a specific research study. The three groups have agreed to work collaboratively, but each Board will make its own decision about which projects to fund.
What diseases will be researched?
That will be determined by the diseases represented in the DNA samples and the diseases for which funding is available. The first research planned, the Wheaten Sibling Pairs Study, will focus on Protein Losing Enteropathy and Protein Losing Nephropathy.
How will the University determine when to share DNA?
The University will share DNA with recognized researchers for funded and approved projects if there is an appropriate sample. DNA will be routinely released for research reviewed and approved by the Morris Animal Foundation, the AKC Canine Health Foundation or the National Institutes of Health. The University will share the minimum amount of DNA needed for a study and will retain at least one-half of each original sample. The University may collaborate on the research, run the test panels and share the data rather than the DNA sample. Research projects must be well designed, expected to produce scientifically valid results and financially feasible.
How many research studies can be done with the DNA stored in the Canine Phenome Project?
Each study will have its own requirements for the number of samples and the amount of each sample needed. A 5 to10 cc sample of blood produces a large amount of DNA. New technology can produce large amounts of data from very small amounts of DNA.
What information will be released on the research done with the DNA?
Results of research studies are published in scientific journals. The results include collective information and analysis. No information about an individual dog used in a study will be released. Funding groups will be notified of significant results of studies. If a DNA mutation is found or if a genetic test is developed, information will be widely distributed.
Will I be notified if anything is found in my dog's DNA?
This type of research is not designed to determine anything previously unknown about the health status of the dogs in the research study. The purpose of DNA sequencing (mapping) research studies is to find a segment of DNA associated with a disease. The ultimate goal of the DNA research will be to find a genetic mutation causing a disease and to develop a marker or direct test for the mutation. When a test is developed, it will be available to all.
If the University develops a genetic test for a disease can DNA already stored at the University be used for the test?
DNA stored at the University can be used for testing for a genetic marker or mutant gene. If DNA is already processed and stored there, the test price will be discounted. Any DNA remaining will be stored for future tests at no charge.
Will a commercial company profit from research using this DNA?
No. DNA tests developed at the University of Missouri belong to the University. They do the testing and charge a fee. Currently, the fee the University charges for tests it has developed for diseases in other breeds is one-fourth to one-half the amount charged by commercial canine genetic testing companies.

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My dog has a DNA profile from AKC. Can that profile be used for this project?
No. The DNA profile used by AKC is for identification purposes and can be used for parentage verification. It includes only a small amount of DNA information. DNA from my dog is already stored at the University of Pennsylvania for Dr. Littman's research projects.
Can that DNA be used for this?
Dr. Littman has committed to sharing Wheaten DNA stored at the University of Pennsylvania for only one project, the Wheaten Sibling Pairs Study. No commitment has been made beyond that specific project. The amount of DNA stored at the University of Pennsylvania may not be adequate to share.
My dog had a cheek swab sample taken at Montgomery County Kennel Club show in 2007.
Can that DNA be used instead of sending another sample?
No. Those samples were collected for the Canine Health Information Center and are not part of this project. DNA from cheek swabs has very limited use. It is not suitable for all scientific applications and may not remain useful in long term storage.

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What is the purpose of the Wheaten Sibling Pairs Study?
The goal of the study is to locate the genes involved in Protein Losing Enteropathy and Protein-Losing Nephropathy. A DNA sequence analysis will be used to compare the genetic variation between unaffected and affected siblings. This is the first step in identifying the location of the genes involved in PLE and PLN. Additional fine mapping of the genes will be needed.
How many DNA samples are needed for the Wheaten Sibling Pairs Study?
Samples from 20 pairs of full siblings (40 samples) are needed. One sibling in each pair must be accurately diagnosed with Protein Losing Enteropathy and/or Protein Losing Nephropathy. The other sibling must be unaffected at age 11.5 years. The affected dog's age does not matter.
How much will the Sibling Pairs Study Cost?
It will cost about $25,000 to $30,000 for the first SNP chip analysis test. Results will determine what additional testing and funding will be needed.


For more information, contact the SCWT Canine Phenome Project Coordinator: Elaine Azerolo at

Canine Phenome Project

SCWTCA Endowment

SCWT Genetic Research Fund

Examples of Dr. Johnson's research


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