The BMD DNA and Tissue Repository - History and Detail

The Vision

To facilitate health research on genetic diseases affecting Bernese Mountain Dogs, the Berner-Garde Foundation (BGF) had a vision of creating a repository of DNA and tumor tissue that would augment the pedigree and current medical information stored in the Berner-Garde Database. It was envisioned that this could give researchers a reliable source of information where they could rapidly begin their studies without having to set up the infrastructure for each researcher to collect this information on their own. BGF President, Lori Jodar and Trustee, Mary Maliarik, had worked very hard on this project for a number of years and were the driving force behind the vision. This goal became a reality in the fall of 2006 when the Berner-Garde Foundation (BGF) and Michigan State University (MSU), with support from the Bernese Mountain Dog Club of America (BMDCA) signed a contract to establish a DNA and Tumor Tissue Repository to be housed at Michigan State University.

Making It Happen

Work was done over the winter of 2006 to establish the infrastructure for the repository as well as the processes and procedures that would be followed. Under the leadership of Dr. Vilma Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan, the Repository co-sponsor at MSU, the proper ultra-low temperature freezer was selected and ordered. This freezer is specifically designed for storage of biological samples at -80 degrees Celsius. The BMDCA generously paid for the freezer.

Also during the winter of 2006, the Berner-Garde Database was enhanced to include the capability of recording and tracking all submitted samples. This included the incorporation of special low-temperature bar coded labels and a hand-held scanner to aid in recording and identifying each sample. The computer work was done by BGF Trustee Gary Galunas and implemented the capabilities designed as a collaborative effort by the entire Repository team. The submitted samples are actually linked to a dog's record in Berner-Garde Database so the pedigree and health information is right at hand.

The Michigan State University team is headed jointly by Dr. Vilma Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan, a geneticist, and Dr. Matti Kiupel, a pathologist. Both researchers have a long and impressive history for contributions to canine health and have been collaborating extensively since 2003 on research in various aspects of cancer. Dr. Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan is a Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies, College of Veterinary Medicine and is in charge of the Repository operation at MSU. Dr. Kiupel is a Professor in the Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation as well as Director of the Immunohistopathology Laboratory and Biopsy Service at the MSU Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health (DCPAH) The processes and procedures for collecting samples were worked out through the efforts of BGF Trustee Mary Maliarik, PhD and the MSU team. Two Licensed Veterinary Technicians, Marlee Richter and Sharon Steck, came on board at this time to learn about the Repository and to be the persons processing Repository submissions on a daily basis. Many of you may have communicated directly with Marlee or Sharon as they helped with the blood draw at the 2007 BMDCA National Specialty in Louisville and have helped many Berner clubs and individual owners with the complexities of submitting blood or frozen tissue samples.

First Collections

The first samples collected for the repository were at the annual elections meeting for the Heart of Michigan BMDC in April of 2007. This was our "test run" in preparation for the sample collection that was done a month later in Louisville. These first two collection events were successful beyond our dreams. At the Michigan club meeting we collected blood and cheek swabs from 48 dogs and at the National in Louisville we collected from 157 dogs. We had thought we would get 200 submissions the first year and we actually surpassed that in the first month!

As an additional note, at the initial sample collection at their club meeting, the Heart of Michigan BMDC presented a check to Berner-Garde in the amount of $5,000 to be used for funding the Repository. This represented 50% of their profit from the 2006 BMDCA National Specialty in Frankenmuth and was their way of "giving back" to the Berner community that supported that specialty so well. Lori Jodar (President, BGF) and Dr. Vilma Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan (MSU) were there to accept the check.

Where Are We Now

Since the 2007 BMDCA National Specialty in Louisville, Berner-Garde has conducted a DNA blood draw campaign at just about every BMDCA National Specialty show. Additionally, a number of regional clubs have volunteered to do DNA sample collections and this has turned out to be a great success! The Berner-Garde Foundation sincerely thanks all the clubs that have organized these events and the wonderful volunteers in those clubs that have made this possible.

BMDCA National - Brycie Marine, Julie Latterell, and Mary Maliarik
Canadian National - Julie Jackson
Chattahoochee Valley - Sheila Dolan
Grand Canyon State - Nancy Stewart
Greater Seattle - Julie Jackson
Greater Twin Cities - Debby Wilkins & Denise McCabe
Heart of Michigan - Mary Maliarik & Denise Vickers
Lone Star - Beverly Hilmes & Renee Jacquier
Mason-Dixon - Maria Crifasi
Northern California - Cindy Beckman
Oregon - Jennifer Brightbill
Potomac Valley - Maria Crifasi
Snowy Pines WA - Colleen Cox
Three Rivers - Maria Crifasi & Nancy Melone

As of February, 2015 we have had 2700 dogs submit samples to the Repository. That is a really terrific response by the Berner community and we sincerely thank all these dogs and owners for contributing.

Moving Forward

For the love of a Berner ...

Our challenge moving forward is for more Berner owners to submit frozen tumor tissue samples. We understand that the process for obtaining useable frozen tumor samples is complex and difficult but these are the samples that are extremely useful for research. This is also typically a time of great stress for owners whose dogs have been diagnosed with a serious disease. We have launched our Just Freeze It campaign that is designed to make the instructions and process simpler and easier to understand. It is our hope that more Berner owners will make the effort to contribute these types of samples.

Submitting Samples To The Repository

Click here to go to the page that describes sample submission.

Repository Contact Information

Berner-Garde Foundation
Lori Jodar
President, BGF
Brycie Marine
BGF Repository Co-Liaison
Julie Latterell
BGF Repository Co-Liaison
Mary Maliarik, Ph.D.
BGF Science Advisor
Michigan State University
Marlee Richter, LVT. LAT
Primary Submissions Contact
517-432-2808 office
517-432-9904 fax
Dr. Vilma Yuzbasiyan-Gurkan
Professor and Associate Dean,
College of Veterinary Medicine, MSU Repository Director at MSU
517-355-6463 ext.1562
Dr. Matti Kiupel, DACVP
Professor, Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation
Director, Immunohistopathology Laboratory and Biopsy Service
MSU Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health
Click here for the Repository web site at MSU
Click here to return to the main repository page.