The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory (VGL) at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine has launched an updated and advanced website along with several new tests for veterinary community. As the VGL is one of the foremost genetic testing laboratories in the world, the new site and tests will bring yet another level of global impact to the top-ranked veterinary school.

The new website, which launched June 15, features a more user- and mobile-friendly platform to provide an educational resource for animal owners and veterinarians worldwide. Highlights of the new site include providing a quick summary about tests, as well as more detailed explanations about genetic test results and their meanings and impacts, including references for even more information. The new site also has expanded searchable functions to easily find information about specific genetic tests.  

“We are continually seeking new ways to provide efficient means of communicating news and educating on genetic testing and research findings with our clients,” said Dr. Rebecca Bellone, director of the VGL. “This new site now allows us to present news stories and the most up-to-date research, all in easily navigable fields. Consistent with our mission, the goal of the design of this site was to provide an engaging and dynamic experience for our clients to assist in their learning about genetics and best utilization of genetic testing information.”

Beyond the easily searchable genetic tests offered, the VGL’s new website also features a genetics glossary, coat color resources, and educational materials like “pop-up” scrollable definitions of words throughout the site, as well as continually-updated activities and games like animal-related crossword puzzles and DIY at-home science projects.

“We are also excited to announce several new tests now available at the VGL,” said Dr. Bellone. “We recently obtained the license to offer type 1 polysaccharide storage disease (PSSM1) as a standalone test and as part of a health panel. This will be important in helping inform horse owners and veterinarians on clinical, management, and breeding decisions for multiple horse breeds.”

PSSM1 is a potentially life-threatening glycogen storage disease that affects skeletal muscles of the horse. The disease results from the accumulation of abnormal glycogen that can damage muscle cells. These excess abnormal sugars can cause breakdown of muscle fibers, which leads to muscle pain, weakness, skin twitching, sweating, and a reluctance to move.

In addition, two other tests that were discovered from equine genetics research projects at UC Davis are now available at the VGL:

  • Equine familial isolated hypocalcemia (EFIH), previously termed idiopathic hypocalcemia, is an invariably fatal condition that causes involuntary contraction of muscles and seizures in Thoroughbred foals.
  • Congenital stationary night blindness (CSNB) is an inherited condition in which affected individuals are unable to see in low light or dark conditions. This test detects a causal variant specific to Tennessee Walking Horses.

For more than 60 years, the VGL has been considered the expert testing and research facility in animal genetics. The first genetic testing done in animals was parentage testing using blood protein markers. In the 1990s, the VGL pioneered the development of using DNA markers for parentage testing in horses and cattle and shared the knowledge learned with many other laboratories. Since then, the laboratory has expanded the number of species tested and expanded its portfolio of tests to include diagnostic markers for disease and traits of interest. In the early 2000s, the VGL pioneered the development of animal forensics and was the first laboratory to be accredited to perform forensic testing on animals. The VGL now offers DNA tests for more than 24 species and offers research-testing services for several others.

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