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Morris Animal Foundation Researcher Explores Diversity of Research Studies and Their Application to Animal Health

Sept. 14, 2017 – A critical component of advancing animal health is research, and within that realm lies a multitude of study types. Determining what type of research study to do, and when, are key decisions scientists must make when embarking on a new project, as elucidated in a new paper from Morris Animal Foundation.

In an editorial published Sept. 11, 2017, in the International Animal Health Journal, “Epidemiology and its Application to Animal Health,” Dr. Missy Simpson, intramural research scientist and epidemiologist with Morris Animal Foundation, provides guidance on study types for veterinary researchers and animal health scientists. The editorial is an overview of study types, and highlights Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, an example of a cohort study, and also discusses exciting advances in store for observational studies.

“Health research is diverse and varied and covers a spectrum from basic research – which describes the early discovery and development phase – to applied research,” noted Dr. Simpson in the article. “Each phase of research is essential to move scientific discovery forward and advance health.”

In the paper, Dr. Simpson discusses interventional research, consisting of clinical trials, and observational research including descriptive studies, case-series studies, case-control studies, and ecologic, retrospective and longitudinal studies.

“An advantage of performing clinical trials in animals is that health outcomes tend to be achieved on an abbreviated timescale relative to humans, which can serve to inform the intent and design of human trials, as well as advance veterinary medicine,” said Dr. Simpson. “In observational studies, animal health researchers are now studying animal disease in the context of improving the health and wellbeing of animals as a primary goal. This change also opens the door to comparative medicine.”

Our companion animals share almost every aspect of our lives, including exposures, and they are at risk for many of the same diseases as humans, wrote Dr. Simpson. For these reasons, they hold tremendous potential to inform disease risk in human health. Morris Animal Foundation funds a diversity of studies in animal health, including the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, the largest veterinary study of its kind in the United States.

“As biomedical technology and computational capacity continue to improve, the nature and sophistication of observational studies will continue to evolve, and the time required to move discoveries from the bench into practice will decrease. As technologies such as –omic assays become more precise, applied research can use these tools to identify disease mechanisms (thus getting closer to identifying the etiology of disease), improve diagnostic testing, and optimize treatments for many different diseases. Veterinary research is poised to be in the vanguard as these technologies become more common.”

About Morris Animal Foundation

Established in 1948, Morris Animal Foundation is dedicated to improving and protecting the health of animals through scientific innovation, education and inspiration. Our investment in research has yielded life-saving vaccines, new treatments for critical diseases, superior screening tests, and advanced diagnostic tools. We respond to emerging animal health threats that endanger entire species, and make new discoveries in basic animal biology to support applied research. With every study we fund – more than 2,600 to date – we strive to advance the science of veterinary medicine, honoring the founding principles of Dr. Mark L. Morris Sr., and benefitting animals worldwide.