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Cool Cats Deserve Cool Science

By Allison Tonini

Being as cool as they are, cats deserve their fair share when it comes to health research. Morris Animal Foundation is funding scientists from across the globe who are using cutting-edge technologies to change the way veterinarians diagnose and treat cats. These new studies are really something to “purr” about.

New therapy stems from cells

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) severely damages the kidneys in cats and progresses to death if left untreated. The earlier CKD is diagnosed, the more likely that treatment will succeed. Too often, though, CKD is not detected until it’s in advanced stages.

In a study funded by Morris Animal Foundation, Dr. Steven Dow, of Colorado State University, is evaluating the effectiveness of mesenchymal stem-cell therapy to treat cats with CKD. This therapy has been successful in reversing and stabilizing kidney function in rodents with renal disease. Dr. Dow hopes the same is true for cats suffering from CKD. If these studies generate positive data, the results will have a significant impact on the development of new ways to manage feline CKD.

All ears for new research

American Curl and Scottish Fold cat breeds are identifiable by their unique ears. American Curls have ears that curl toward the back of their heads, and Scottish Folds have ears that fold forward. Two independent gene mutations appear to be responsible for the folded ear trait. This may explain why American Curls experience simple malformed ear cartilage, which doesn’t negatively affect the breed, but Scottish Folds suffer from painful bone malformations and crippling arthritis that could be associated with the folded ear mutation.

Dr. Bianca Hasse, of the University of Sydney in Australia, is analyzing the genetics of both breeds in hopes that she will successfully identify the genes and chromosomal regions responsible for the breeds’ folded ears. Her study is funded through the Cat Health Network, which includes Morris Animal Foundation, the American Association of Feline Practitioners, Winn Feline Foundation and the American Veterinary Medical Foundation. Success in this study could lead to a greater understanding of cartilage physiology, therefore improving the health of the Scottish Fold breed. What’s more, the study may provide new information about the much broader problem of feline osteoarthritis.

Prevention on the horizon

Cytauxzoonosisis is a life-threatening disease in domestic cats caused by the Cytauxzoon felis parasite, which is transmitted by ticks. Without proper diagnosis and treatment, the mortality rate for infected cats is a devastating 97 percent. Even with the best available treatment, about 40 percent of cats infected with C. felis will die.

Researchers believe a vaccination is the only practical control strategy—and one may be on the way. Led by Dr. Adam Birkenheuer, scientists at North Carolina State University are conducting a Foundation-funded study to help identify which genes are the best vaccine candidates.

This project takes the first crucial step toward the development of a vaccine against cytauxzoonosis.

Posted by MAF on October 9, 2012.

Categories: Animal health, Cat diseases, Cat health


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