Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 6:53:48 AM

Local News

Print Friendly | Bookmark and Share

Could Research on Alpacas Cure Human Diseases?

Dr. Andrew Merriwether and his wife Ann own an alpaca farm in Vestal.

Every summer, it draws many curious onlookers. But there is more than meets the eye.

"He's Farmer Andy, doing all the farming stuff. And then he's Geneticist Andy, he's in the lab," said Ann Merriwether.

"There are lots of people who raise alpacas, and lots of geneticists. But I don't think there are any other geneticists who own alpacas and understand their uses," said Andrew Merriwether.

Dr. Merriwether is looking for the gene for a fatal disease that affects both humans and alpacas: Choanal Atresia.

The disease leaves babies unable to breathe through their nose, and it is one of the most common serious diseases in alpacas.

"Alpaca breeders don't want this to happen. It's sad and traumatic to lose the babies," said Dr. Merriwether.

By studying the genetics of alpacas, we can gain insight into the genetics of humans.

"For humans, if we understand what causes it we find the gene and we understand why the gene makes it happen, maybe we can make that gene not happen," said Dr. Merriwether.

Dr. Merriwether works in his lab at Binghamton University. When he acquires an alpaca affected by Choanal Atresia, he takes a blood sample, separates the blood from the DNA and then analyzes it.

"If we're really lucky, it might lead to a treatment or a cure," said Dr. Merriwether.

Dr. Merriwether estimates he needs 50 families, each with one affected offspring. So far he has 30 families. On Thursday, a new alpaca baby was born.

With even more alpaca families, Dr. Merriwether could start looking for genes for other diseases that are more common in humans, such as cataracts and heart murmurs.

"You hope to do things that help other people," said Dr. Merriwether.

In Vestal, Samantha McDonald, Fox 40 HD news.


VIEW VIDEO

View Related Articles: Binghamton, Broome County or comment on this one below.

blog comments powered by Disqus


Back Back

News system programming and website hosting by EFX internet  EFX internet


Additional Articles


UPDATE: Woman Hit and Killed By Train In Endwell VIEW VIDEO
A 38 year old white woman has died after being hit by a train. Just after 6 o'clock this evening, scanner reports indicated a person hit by a train in Endwell on a section of the tracks between... more

Thousands of Children and even More Easter Eggs VIEW VIDEO
With Easter this Sunday, thousands of children gathered to  celebrate the holiday with fun activities throughout the day. "It's great. I mean it's a great event for the community to come out here... more

Fugitive Behind Bars with Robbery Charges VIEW VIDEO
A Binghamton man on the run for months was apprehended Friday--and is now facing charges. Police say that after a brief foot chase Friday afternoon Kareem Gibson ran into a home at 49 Clark Street... more

Man Arrested with Sawed-Off Shotgun VIEW VIDEO
And yesterday afternoon a man was arrested in Delaware County for possessing a sawed-off shotgun.   22 year old Sean Reeves of Meridale was arrested after Delaware County Investigators received a... more

Local Butchers Prepare for Easter VIEW VIDEO
And of course we are now only a few hours away from  Easter, and those celebrating across the area are preparing their holiday meals.   FOX 40 stopped by Butcher Boys in Endicott today, where... more

Easter Egg Hunt at Rec Park VIEW VIDEO
And just a few miles away, there were even more Easter eggs and celebrations taking place.   Rec Park in Binghamton held it's 2nd annual Easter Egg Hunt today. Nearly 1500 people  attended the... more

Locals Celebrate Easter Vigil VIEW VIDEO
Catholic churches all throughout the world are holding Easter Vigils this evening, in what is known to be their holiest week of the year. St. Anthony of Padua Church in Endicott held their vigil... more

Click here for more local news...icon

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 A News Story

If you are looking for a copy of a news story that we recently aired, simply click here to find out how.

FOX 40 Poll


Which Social Media Site Do You Use The Most?
 
Twitter
 
Facebook
 
LinkedIn
 
MySpace
 
Other
 
None
   

Breaking News

Do you have a tip or information about a breaking news story? Contact the FOX 40 News Desk at 607.798.0070 or send us an email .

Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Stumble It More...