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Wednesday, 29 December, 1999, 04:01 GMT
Cat link to male fertility

cat Cats and men share sex chromosome genes

The phrase tomcat has been given new meaning after researchers claimed the sex chromosomes of humans and cats strongly resemble each other.

The results are surprising given that the evolutionary divide between humans and our feline cousins is 90 million years old.

Bu the findings could have implications for the understanding of male fertility, as scientists may be able to use cats as a model for further studies.

The most striking observation is the absolute conservation of gene order between human and cat
Dr William Murphy
The X and Y chromosomes found in mammals developed 250 million years ago, but the Y chromosome was thought to have shuffled its DNA so extensively that scientists believed the order of its genes differed even in closely related mammals.

Same gene order

But now a team led by William Murphy at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, USA, have found that cats and humans have essentially the same gene order on both the X and Y chromosomes.

The Y chromosome has preserved itself to an unexpected degree, suggesting the cat may be an appropriate model for studying human sexual functions such as male fertility.

Referring to the X chromosome, Dr Murphy said: "The most striking observation is the absolute conservation of gene order between human and cat."

And he added, in a report in Genome Research, that the results of the mapping of the Y chromosomes "indicate the feline Y chromosome as a potential model for fertility dysfunction in man".

The link between three particular genes in cats, mice and humans, coupled with the fact that these genes were seen to be damaged where there was reproductive impairment in mice and humans, led him to the conclusion that cats could provide the answer to sperm production problems.

Dr Murphy called for further research to establish whether links exist between humans and other mammals.

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See also:
20 Aug 99 |  Health
Gene causes infertility
13 Sep 99 |  Health
Ignorance over male infertility
03 Jun 99 |  Health
At-risk men 'unaware' of cancer threat

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