Feline genomes are surprisingly similar to humans’, and could help us treat disease in both species.
The genome of a mouse is, structurally speaking, a chaotic place. At some point in its evolutionary past, the mouse shuffled its ancestral genome like a deck of cards, futzing up the architecture that makes most other mammalian genomes look, well, mammalian. “I always consider it the greatest outlier,” Bill Murphy, a geneticist at Texas A&M University, told me. “It’s about as different from any other placental mammal genome as you can find, sort of like it’s the moon, compared to everything else being on the Earth.”
Mouse genomes are still incredibly useful. Thanks to years of careful tinkering, meticulous mapping, and a bonkers amount of breeding, researchers have deciphered the murine genetic code so thoroughly that they can age the animals up or down or alter their susceptibility to cancer, findings that have big implications for humans. But the mouse’s genomic disarray makes it less suited to research that could help us understand how our own genetic codes are packaged and stored. Which is why some researchers have turned to other study subjects, just one step up the food chain.