It’s time you pet owners learnt about HealthyTail and their quest to significantly improve your pet’s health and longevity.
Technological innovation has given rise to a plethora of smart devices and infrastructures that allow our pets to live a happier and healthier life.
The busy modern-day pet owner feels relieved knowing that they can still care for their pet even though they might not be with them.
Whether it’s scheduling a meal to be automatically dispensed, checking in with their loved one through a remote access monitor, or even keeping tabs on their health through wearable gadgets, looking after our pets has never been easier.
However, despite the rise in smart internet-connected devices, and a life of luxury for pets worldwide, these types of products have ceased to tackle one of the major concerns looming over the pet industry: genetic illnesses.
No matter how many vet appointments are made, how many boxes of the most nutritious foods are bought, or how many smart pet-tech devices the owner has purchased, it is heredity that plays the strongest factor in determining pet health and life expectancy.
Genetic Illnesses in Pets
Contrary to the developments of gene therapy and genetic diagnostics in humans, genetic illnesses in cats and dogs are rather under researched.
At present, we have untangled some inherited diseases that are caused by a mutation in a singular gene (monogenic disorders).
Examples include: Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in dogs, Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) and Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM) in cats, and Atopic dermatitis in both cats and dogs.
But it is often the case that inherited diseases are the result of multiple genes interacting with each other (polygenic disorders), as well as non-genetic factors (environmental) playing a role in their expression too (complex traits).
Because the majority of genetic illnesses and traits are polygenic/complex, we require advanced techniques that allow us to investigate the backgrounds of such.
Advanced Veterinary Health Practices
Now, the problem is not that we don’t have these advanced techniques because we already do. Genome Wide Association Studies (GWAS) allow us to scan the entire genome (whole genome sequencing), of both the cases and controls, and then examine the suspected region associated with the disease. GWAS’ grant us the potential to find new genes and explore pathways we may not have reasoned before.
So, what seems to be the problem? Well, since genes themselves have only a small effect size, it means that we require an enormous sample size to validate associations or causes. It is here that we have reached the problem with genetic research on pets: lack of data.
Nonetheless, as with all problems there is a solution. The solution here seems straightforward: collect a large set of genetic data on pets and conduct thousands of GWAS’ to begin investigating patterns and irregularities with regards to heritability. But where do we begin? Swedish based company “HealthyTail” seems to hold a promising answer.
HealthyTail and Blockchain
HealthyTail aims to bring a new level of veterinary care based on blockchain technology. Their goal is to collect genetic data from pets all around the world to use for research and treatments of health and genetic issues. HealthyTail aims to bring all stakeholders together, from pet owners and breeders to veterinarians and scientists, via their TAILS token (cryptocurrency). But, before we get too deep into the logistics, first of all, what is blockchain?
Blockchain is an open, decentralised platform that operates on a peer-to-peer (P2P) network meaning that there is no need for third-party organisations. The blockchain system stores information in blocks and each peer has all of the same blocks. When new information is uploaded to the blockchain, it is verified by every peer in the system. This means that no singular person can tamper with the block, ensuring the secure transmission of information.
Right, now we’ve got that over with, let’s talk about how HealthyTail will acquire its genetic data. They’ve broken down the process into 6 simple steps:
- Pet owners will download the HealthyTail app and create a TAILS account (one account per pet).
- They then order the HealthyTail diagnostics kit using their TAILS tokens.
- A saliva kit will be shipped to the owner and they will swab the inside of their pets’ mouth.
- The saliva kit will be sent back to the sequencing lab.
- The owner will then need to update their TAILS account with their pet’s phenotypic data (e.g., weight and age).
- After 2-weeks the full diagnostic report will be sent back to the owner, which includes traits, breed diagnostics, risks and tips for maximum wellbeing.
After this process has been completed, the pet’s data will then be available on the HealthyTail blockchain. From here, pharma and research companies will be able to download the pet’s data.
The data will then contribute towards finding genetic markers of hereditary diseases, revealing the genetic mechanisms behind pet longevity, and ultimately towards designing and testing new drugs including gene therapy for pets.
Throughout this process, the TAILS token will be central to the transaction of data. Pet owners will be rewarded with TAILS for uploading their pet’s data, keeping it updated, and for every time the data is downloaded, whereas pharma and research companies will pay to access the data with TAILS.
With regards to the expenditure of the TAILS tokens, users will be able to purchase breed certificates, genetic diagnostics or newly developed drugs for their pets.
HealthyTail Project Summary
So, that’s quite an extensive project, what does it all mean? Well, it means that veterinarians will be more able to understand hereditability, it means that pet breeders can select and breed healthier pets with a longer life expectancy, and it means that revolutionary treatments for genetic diseases in pets are on the horizon.
We can expect big things from HealthyTail. Not only is their vision radical, but their team boasts of world-leading, highly-cited scientists in the genetics field, including Dr. Stephen J O’Brain and Dr. Brain Kennedy as two of many advisors, as well as seasoned veterinarians and IT professionals.
Nevertheless, this project is something we can expect sometime in the future. Blockchain is still a nascent technology that has yet to become largely adopted. HealthyTail is still in pre-ICO stage, meaning that the TAILS token have not yet been made available. We all wait with suspense.
For more information about other technologies, check out our blog Technology for Cats: The Present and Future.
Alternatively, if you’re looking for something lighter and more fun, you can check out our infographic on the Top 20 Cat Breeds and Their Personalities.