Use code EMBARK for up to $50 off + free shipping | Offer ends 3/31
curly coat pup

Genome-Wide Association and Your Best Friend

February 28, 2018

A genome-wide association, or “GWAS”, is really a simple comparison across two populations that are only differentiated by a particular characteristic of interest.

Genome-wide association

Imagine, for example, you have two forms of a dog breed. One with curly coats, and one with wavy to straight coats. In no other way do the two groups differ. In fact, they have been extensively interbred. So that curly coated dogs are not on average more related to other curly coated dogs than they are to wavy coated dogs. Then all you need to do is separate them into the two trait classes, and compare their genes. The two groups are the exact same breed with the same population history. Therefore, all their genes should be the same…except for the gene or genes which encode for the difference of the trait in question.

Here the coat form is a genetic trait. So you expect the genes encoding this characteristic to differ between the populations. A GWAS then produces “hits” which are regions of the genome associated with unexpected (non-random) differences between two populations. These differences vary only in the one trait of interest. If the genetic differences are very high between your two populations, then it may be that much of the variation can be explained by that particular genetic variant you’ve just discovered. If the difference is more modest, then it may be that several genes combine in their variation to produce the contrast in characters that we see.

Ultimately, the name says it all. A GWAS is simply an association between genes and a trait. Dogs have many traits of interest that are easy to see. Embark is on a mission to understand the genetic characteristics of dogs as well as we understand the physical ones.

Want to get to know your pup better than ever before? Click here to order your own Embark Dog DNA Test.