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Nov. 27, 2006 ---
News Release ---
GENETIC TEST FOR prcd-PRA ANNOUNCED FOR Spanish Water Dog and Australian Shepherds ---
Ithaca, New York, USA. 

OptiGen, LLC, http://www.optigen.com, announces that a DNA-based test is now available for a form of Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) that has been identified in two more breeds of dog, the Spanish Water Dog and Australian Shepherds. The OptiGen test for PRA in the Spanish Water Dog and Australian Shepherds identifies a mutation in the prcd gene that was discovered through extensive research in the laboratories of Dr. Gustavo Aguirre and Dr. Gregory Acland at Cornell University (Zangerl et al., Genomics 88, 551-563, 2006). Dr. Aguirre is now at the University of Pennsylvania.

PRA refers to a group of diseases that cause the retina of the eye to degenerate slowly over time. The result is declining vision and eventual blindness. prcd stands for progressive rod-cone degeneration which is a type of PRA known in several breeds. The addition of the Spanish Water Dog and Australian Shepherds increases the number of breeds affected with prcd to nineteen. This genetic disorder causes rod and cone cells in the retina at the back of the eye to degenerate and die, even though the cells seem to develop normally early in life. The rod cells operate in low light levels and are the first to lose normal function. This results in night blindness. Then the cone cells gradually lose their normal function in full light situations. Most affected dogs will eventually be blind. Typically, the clinical disease is recognized first in early adolescence or early adulthood. Age of onset varies somewhat among breeds, so it will be important to use the experience of ongoing testing to learn the specific features of PRA in the Spanish Water Dog and Australian Shepherds. 

Blood samples from PRA affected Spanish Water Dog and Australian Shepherds were provided to OptiGen for genetic analysis. This allowed discovery of the prcd mutation as at least one cause of PRA in the breed. It is not known if other non-prcd forms of PRA also occur in the Spanish Water Dog and Australian Shepherds. The number of Spanish Water Dog and Australian Shepherds samples that have been tested for prcd is low and at this point it is not possible to determine the prevalence of the disease within the breed. OptiGen maintains a policy of testing at no charge any dogs that have a diagnosis of PRA (provided that diagnostic verification and a pedigree are received and approved at OptiGen prior to sample submission. See the OptiGen website for further details). It is of great value to our understanding of PRA in the breed if animals that have been seen by a veterinary ophthalmologist and have been diagnosed with PRA are submitted to OptiGen for free testing. For any Spanish Water Dog and Australian Shepherds that does not have a diagnosis of PRA, OptiGen will accept samples for prcd-PRA testing at the fee schedule viewable on the website. 

OptiGen, LLC, is a private company established to provide canine genetic tests to breeders and owners of purebred dogs, their veterinarians and veterinary specialists. OptiGen offers DNA-based tests for a variety of canine diseases with a primary focus on diseases of the eye. OptiGen holds an exclusive international license from Cornell University for the testing of prcd-PRA. For more information about these tests and other new developments, go to http://www.optigen.com.


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OptiGen®, LLC · Cornell Business & Technology Park · 767 Warren Road, Suite 300 · Ithaca, New York 14850
Tel: 607 257 0301 · Fax: 607 257 0353 · email: genetest@optigen.com or optigen@clarityconnect.com
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