Lifeblood: Queens of the jungle, Great Zimbabwe & My sister Robyn, one afternoon in the Karoo

Pair1 photos: Audio description by the artist.

Comparisons have long been made between women and lionesses – Mothers, protectors, providers; both queens in their own right.  The lioness represents the raw power of a woman: beautiful, caring, nurturing but also fiercely protective.

However, the scientific link between humans and the cat family go far beyond these personality traits. Scientists have mapped the big cat and Human genome and they are 85% similar! It is easy to see the similarity as we are both mammals. Furthermore, scientists have shown that over 200 human-like hereditary diseases in humans also affect cats.  This baseline of hereditary and infectious disease descriptions in cats (such as feline immunodeficiency virus) offers a fertile platform for modelling homologous diseases in humans. This bio-medical relevance combined with several biological advantages make a strong case for assessing the whole genome sequence (WGS) of this species.

 “Medicine and understanding comes in strange packages and often from unanticipated places.  We can learn an enormous amount from animals and their encounters, adaptations and genomic secrets.” – Dr Stephen O’Brian – Geneticist and former Head of the Laboratory of Genomic Diversity at the National Cancer Institute, USA.

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