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Finding common ground

By Heidi Jeter

What two traits do Shar-Pei dogs and humans have in common? Wrinkles are an obvious characteristic. The second trait may be a genetic mutation that triggers autoinflammatory fever syndrome, a condition that affects this breed and humans. The March online issue of PLoS Genetics announced that researchers have determined that the gene mutation responsible for the wrinkled skin of Shar-Pei dogs is also linked to the fever disorder.

The finding could help improve the health of both species, and it’s just one recent example of how medical advances and discoveries in one species can help another.

The concept of “One Medicine”—which emphasizes the overlap and interdependence between animal and human health—has been around for more than a century, but it wasn’t until recently that the world really took notice.

For many years, health research was a one-way street focused on using animals as models for human health, but now information is going two ways. Recent completion of the genomes of humans, chimpanzees, dogs and many other species has hammered home just how interconnected we are. These genetic discoveries have led to greater emphasis on comparative medicine, the study of disease processes across species.

That’s great news for animals, who have reaped the benefits of human medical technologies, such as chemotherapy, surgical techniques, X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Morris Animal Foundation has played a significant role in many of these advances. For example, the Foundation funded the first study of its kind to use abdominal MRI to distinguish between benign and malignant lesions in the liver and spleen of dogs. In that study, which ended a few years ago, researchers achieved a 90 percent diagnostic accuracy rate in using MRI. These results mirror those seen in humans. Today, foundation funded scientists are testing the technology’s ability to accurately diagnose brain lesions in dogs—and the results are promising.

In the area of stem cell research, the Foundation is funding studies that are evaluating the use of adult stem cells derived from the animal’s own fat or bone marrow to treat cancer and spinal injuries in dogs and musculoskeletal injuries in horses.

When it comes to drug therapies, many of the drugs used to treat conditions like cancer, hyperthyroidism and heart disease in humans are now used regularly for treating dogs and cats. Researchers are currently studying whether four different drugs developed for humans are effective in treating feline heart disease and preventing associated blood clots.

These are just a few examples of how human technologies are being used to improve the lives of animals. The more we learn from one another, the healthier we’ll all be.

Posted by MAFon May 17, 2011.

Categories: Animal health, Canine health, Dog health


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