MISSING TESTICLE DNA
Barbara J. Andrews, Publisher, TheDogPlace.org
What follows is a widely circulated request for blood samples "to find the gene mutations that cause cryptorchidism."
"missing testicle" information was first published in May 2005 so over a decade
has passed and
we are unable to find any recorded success in any missing testicle (cryptorchid) study but we do find a lot of
$$$ continue to be donated by the AKC/CHF and generous dog
If in fact
missing testicles (meaning not palpable because rarely are the gonads not formed)
are genetic as has been postulated, why has all the genetic knowledge and
advances in DNA study not resulted in a reduction of the incidence of "retained
testicles"? Although most horses are gelded (castrated),
blooded horses are also plagued with this problem. As in puppies, human
infants may have normal testes but they are not always palpable until fully
descended into the scrotum. Obviously there is not much viable control and
therefore, little to
launch a genetic "retained" or missing study in humans.
Cornell Veterinary University does not appear to be directly connected with
this particular "missing testicle study" purported to benefit dogs
although the 2005 email request below is worded to strongly suggest that the
prestigious college is involved. Without
research, there would be no advances in human or veterinary medicine so this
sounded pretty good but then things began to fall apart. First, here is the
"Cornell" email solicitation.
"Subject: Cornell study on Cryptorchidism"
"In the laboratories at the Baker
Institute for Animal Health, Cornell University, Dr. Vicki Meyers-Wallen focuses
upon inherited disorders that affect canine reproduction. Our goal is to
identify genes that have a negative impact upon reproduction, with the final
goal of producing practical tests to identify those carrying harmful mutations.
The long term goals are to reduce, and eventually remove, such deleterious genes
from purebred dog populations, thus improving the reproductive soundness of
"We are asking for breeders and owners to participate in our study by allowing us
to collect blood samples from their dogs and related dogs. Those interested can
e-mail Dr. Meyers-Wallen (see below) We are studying the DNA to find
the gene mutations that cause cryptorchidism (undescended testicles). Since this
is the most prevalent inherited disorder of the canine reproductive system, it
would be very helpful to have a test to detect carriers of these genes. Then
breeders could plan matings in which no cryptorchid offspring would be produced,
while allowing the offspring to receive other desirable genes that such carriers
We exposed the shady practice of collecting blood-DNA-samples
under false pretenses because such requests are increasingly frequent and
unfortunately, equally hard to verify. While requests for blood, tissue,
or DNA samples may be perfectly legitimate, my litmus test for truth
is whether they are willing to respond to reasonable, polite questions.
Most researchers welcome an opportunity
to promote a concept or project. When a "missing testicle study" is given
as the reason to elicit the cooperation of dog breeders, it should be easily
We should be clearly informed of the purpose to which donated blood
or DNA samples will be directed. Whether human or animal, DNA samples
become the patentable property of the company that collects them. We are entitled to assurance that
blood, tissue samples, or DNA will only be used for the
stated purpose and will not be sold or otherwise “used” without our
knowledge or consent.
Our concern here is fraud in canine
research but examples abound in human studies. In 2010, results of a predictive test for inherited breast cancer were
withheld from the very women who donated cells from which the test was developed
on grounds that the pharmaceutical company legally owned the women's cells.
The women sued. Finally, test results were provided to the donors at no cost - just
before the TV documentary aired.
Breeders would rejoice at the thought of finding and eliminating a gene
for retained or "missing testicles", which by the way, is not the “most prevalent”
inherited disorder of the canine repro system. That misstatement alone is cause
to reject the validity of this study.
As has been speculated by breeders who keep track of such things, the
missing testicle gene (cryptorchidism) can be carried by the FEMALE dog, analogous to von Willibrand’s
Disease (bleeder) which is also carried by the female. The
missing-testicle study made no
mention of that possibility and it appears that only male dogs were acceptable for DNA research.
Exploration of the website links validated Dr. Vicki Meyers-Wallen’s impressive credentials but
also raised questions. The first statement regarding the research is “We
are studying animal models of inherited human disorders as a means to
understand sex determination and differentiation at the molecular level.”
Second paragraph, again relating to humans, “Affected individuals do not
have a Y chromosome: the karyotypes of affected individuals are the same as
those of normal females.” That could explain why blood samples from females are
not necessary, which means breeders would not
learn whether or not female dogs carry the gene for retained or missing testicle.
Third paragraph finally mentions dogs but the cited abnormality has nothing to do with
retained testicles. “A second disorder that we are investigating,
which occurs in humans and dogs, is Persistent Mullerian Duct Syndrome (PMDS)
in which the oviducts and uterus develop in otherwise normal males.”
Finally, the fourth and concluding paragraph, quoted in its entirety, gets to
the part of the study that relates to dogs “A third disorder that we are
investigating in collaboration with other investigators is cryptorchidism, which
is failure of the testes to descend into the scrotum. Our objective is to find
the genes responsible for this disorder in the dog. We are currently collecting
DNA samples from cryptorchid males and their parents and grandparents in canine
To a wordsmith, "in collaboration with" sounds like "we will sell or share samples
with someone else." No explanation as to why
such a significant amount of blood is required as opposed to DNA studies from a cheek swab, a single hair
- or a 3,000 year old speck of dust from a mummy’s tomb.
Before deciding to promote the research, we decided to ask questions.
This was prompted by a recent experience wherein a crew representing
themselves as veterinarians from a "vet university" appeared at the Oklahoma Toy Specialties
to collect blood samples. They gave their pitch to a meeting room
full of interested owners. The first hitch came when they were asked
about a draw from jugular vein of toy dogs, following which the collection
team refused to clarify whether they were vets, students, or even lab
techs. Amid the clamor over that, I asked if they could assure us that the DNA
and blood samples would not be sold or otherwise shared. They said
they didn't know, hastily left the meeting, and were nowhere to be seen the following day. Based on that experience, we decided
to contact Dr. Meyers-Wallen.
I prefaced the request by explaining we are the largest
subscriber-based website in the U.S. and would be glad to help promote their
project. I asked whether there had been any study on the hereditary
factor of retained testicles and what would be done with the database of information and the samples obtained. I thanked Dr.
Meyers-Wallen for her anticipated response.
From: Vicki Meyers-Wallen [mailto:email@example.com] Sent: Thursday, August 11, 2005
To: Editor Subject: Re: QUESTION re cryptorchidism study DNA sample
Dear Ms. Andrews,
Thank you for your willingness to help. I am hesitant to
post this further since I am presently experiencing a tremendous response- so
much so that I am having trouble keeping up with the correspondence right now.
After we evaluate how many samples we actually receive from this response, I can
tell whether we actually need any more.
Thank you for your patience,
Vicki N. Meyers-Wallen, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACT Associate Professor
Dept. of Biomedical Sciences, J.A. Baker Institute for Animal Health,
College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
Telephone: 607 256-5683 FAX: 607 256-5608 e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
To which I responded:
“… Your failure to address any of my questions leads me to believe that this
DNA sample collection may not be as altruistic as has been portrayed. Could that be true? If you have a moment to
reply to all those emails from people who are responding, then
surely you have time to answer basic questions? My time is limited as well but
if it is a worthy project and will actually provide some tangible
benefit for the dogs, it deserves promotion.”
And she replied, in total:
“I am sorry that you feel that way.”
No signature and no pretense at civility or cooperation. We leave you to interpret this information as you will.
We're told "It never hurts to ask" but when it comes to "university"
studies for missing testicles, perhaps it does.
# Baylor College of Veterinary Medicine closed a 2007/2008 genetics study (funded in part
$12,960, by the AKC/CHF) with no published results.
# As of May 2010 we have seen no news of a DNA test for a genetic component for cyrptorchidism but requests for blood and DNA samples continue.
# A Sept 2014 query failed to elicit any
information about any current research to determine the canine genetic component
responsible for retained or missing testicles.
Testing Hype and Fraud reveals
a plethora of pleas for breeders to donate blood samples.
Capt. Haggerty responds to this article, explains more on genetics & missing testicles
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