Lil Bub, the wildly popular Internet cat, is known for her unique mug. With bulging eyes, lack of teeth, and extra digits, the cat is adorable—but mysteriously different from the rest of her species. Scientists Daniel M. Ibrahim, Uschi Symmons, and Darío G Lupiáñez want to understand why Bub is different by sequencing her genome.
On April 15, a crowdfunding project called “The LilBubome” launched on Experiment.com. The goal is to identify mutations in the adorable cat's DNA in order to explain her appearance. Using just a blood sample, the project creators hope to find evidence in the DNA that will tell them if Lil Bub’s traits are all caused by one disease or multiple diseases.
Using Lil Bub’s popularity, people unfamiliar with the science will hopefully get interested. Sequencing the cat’s genome using state-of-the-art technology could work as an excellent educational tool; the researchers promise to document the process closely and to thoroughly explain everything they’re doing.
“With the LilBubome we hope to attract a broader audience,” Symmons writes on his blog, “people who might not care about science and genetics, but who do care about Lil Bub and what makes her so special.”
Hopefully this experiment will gain traction and open a conversation about the new technological breakthroughs in DNA sequencing. On top of this, learning more about a rare condition can help improve medicines and treatments for others.
“Every single cat or person, for whom we have a genetic diagnosis with a causative mutation and a successful treatment, is like an individual puzzle piece. In the long run, we can start putting these puzzle pieces together for a bigger, more detailed picture. This way, sequencing the genome of one little cat can help answer a big problem in diagnosis and health care,” Symmons said.
You can read more, and back the project, here.