Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 11:36:32 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 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

Boy Hit by Car VIEW VIDEO
A nine year old boy escaped serious injury Tuesday after being struck by a car  at Hazel and Glennwood around three o'clock in the afternoon:   Binghamton Police tell us the youngster was crossing... more

Casino Bidders Hopeful with Thinning Competition VIEW VIDEO
With a thinning field of competitors,  there are two venues left vying for a license from the state to operate a Casino in the Southern Tier:   Both Tioga Downs in Nichols and Traditions at the... more

Siena Poll Shows Cuomo Could Lose Half his Lead in a 3-Way Race VIEW VIDEO
Polls have been showing Governor Cuomo far ahead of any single possible challenger in a re-election bid for the governorship--   But now, a Siena poll is showing that the large lead-- 30 points... more

Local Boston Marathon Runner Reflects on This Year's Race VIEW VIDEO
He's a bit sore but a Newark Valley man is back home after running in the Boston Marathon Monday.   Brian Kupp finished last year's Boston Marathon about an hour before the bombs went off.... more

Vestal Looking to Fund Chugnut Trail Extension VIEW VIDEO
There will be more of a trail to exercise along--if Vestal grant writers can get the funding to add 3.2 miles to the Chugnut Trail:   The plan is to extend the path from Vestal avenue, all the... more

B.C. Dems Call for Ethics Investigation on Bijoy Datta VIEW VIDEO
Democrats in the Broome County Legislature are calling for an ethics investigation of Deputy County Executive Bijoy datta.   At issue are emails sent by Datta to county workers urging them to... more

A Room To Heal Changes One Boy's Life VIEW VIDEO
A ribbon cutting and a first for 10-year-old Connor Ford. For the first time Ford, who suffers from Treacher Collins Syndrome and Cerebral Palsy, has his own room. "It's been amazing, just... more

Click here for more local news...icon



 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?

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...