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Our Research

Science has the power to change the world

As the global leader in supporting scientific research that advances veterinary medicine, Morris Animal Foundation has invested more than $100 million toward more than 2,400 studies to improve the health and well-being of dogs, cats, horses, llamas/alpacas and wildlife.

At any given time, Morris Animal Foundation is managing more than 200 active studies. Each year, we also fund about 30 veterinary student scholar projects. Search our health study database by species or area of study to learn more about research that will make a true difference in the lives of animals—today and tomorrow.

To sponsor a study, please contact a member of our sponsorship team for the most up-to-date status on our research projects at sponsorship@MorrisAnimalFoundation.org or call 800.243.2345. 

Search Results

Analyzing Causes of Behavioral Changes in Belgian Malinois

Some Belgian Malinois may experience seizures and unpredictable behavioral changes, including eyes glazing over, a lack of response to environmental stimuli and a loss of behavioral inhibition characterized by such behaviors as owner-directed biting. Dogs with severe behavioral changes may be euthanized because of their threat to humans and other dogs. the researchers hope to identify a mutation in a neurotransmitter-related gene that may play an important role in seizures and extreme behaviors. identifying dogs with this mutation would allow breeders to select against these traits and carefully target homes for puppies according to buyer background and experience. This breed is increasingly used in working environments that involve substantial interaction with the public, so a genetic test would provide an objective genetic measure that is strongly predictive of health and behavioral issues at early ages.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Anita M. Oberbauer, University of California–Davis

Sponsors:

Study ID: D12CA-054

Building a better genome to help study canine diseases

Genome models are critical tools in identifying genetic mutations associated with disease. Researchers will use new nanochannel-based technology to create an optical map of the canine genome. Nanochannel-based technology looks at long, uncoiled stretches of DNA. Current sequence technology looks at short DNA strands that are then reassembled, like a puzzle, into a full picture. Data from the new optical map will be used to validate and improve the contiguity of the current sequence-based genome assembly. Building a better canine genome will enhance the research community’s ability to identify causes of and genetic risk factors associated with simple and complex canine diseases.

Principal Investigator: Kristopher Silver, PhD, Kansas State University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D16CA-310

Building a Better Horse Genome to Help Researchers Study Equine Diseases

Genome sequencing allows researchers to read and decipher genetic information found in DNA. It is especially useful for mapping genes that cause disease in animals. Morris Animal Foundation helped fund the first genome reference sequence for the domestic horse, released in 2009. Since that time, there have been dramatic improvements in sequencing technology and the computational hardware and algorithms used to analyze the data. Researchers will use this new technology to improve the reference genome for the horse and create a more complete map of the horse’s genetic code. This map will help the research community find new approaches for tackling serious equine health problems.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Theodore S Kalbfleisch, University of Louisville, Established Investigator

Sponsors:

Study ID: D15EQ-019

Comparing Cat Breeds to Identify Genetic Reasons for Bone Disease

Scottish Fold and American Curl cat breeds are easily identified by their unusual ears, which are an inherited trait. Although Scottish Folds have forward-folding ears, American Curls have ears that curl toward the center of the back of the skull. In American Curls, only the ear cartilage is malformed, whereas Scottish Folds can suffer from bone malformations and crippling arthritis that greatly affects their long-term quality of life. Based on existing pedigree analyses, two independent gene mutations appear responsible for the folded ear. it is possible that both mutations have occurred in the same gene or in genes belonging to the same signaling pathway. researchers will genotype cats from both breeds and identify the genes and chromosomal regions responsible for the folded-ear traits. The outcome of this study is of particular importance in understanding cartilage physiology, and it could provide new information regarding the much broader problem of osteoarthritis in these cats.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Bianca Haase, University of Sydney, Australia

Sponsors:

Study ID: D12FE-021

Determining the Effectiveness of Stem Cell Therapy in Cats

Mesnechymal stem cells (MSCs) show promise for treating a variety of chronic inflammtory diseases in cats. This study identifies the in vitro and in vivo effects of feline MSC treatment on the immune system and evaluates the safety and effectiveness of its use in cats with idiopathic cystitis or inflammation.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Maciej Parys, Michigan State University, Fellowship Training

Sponsors:

Study ID: D13FE-405

Determining uveitis (eye inflammation) risk factors in Appaloosa horses

Summary: Researchers will investigate genetic risk factors for equine recurrent uveitis, a common eye condition and leading cause of blindness in horses.

Description: Equine recurrent uveitis is characterized by repeated episodes of inflammation of the uvea, the pigmented and vascular middle layer of the eye. Appaloosa horses are eight times more likely to develop and four times more likely to be blinded by the condition, suggesting genetic factors may influence disease risk. Researchers will search for genes associated with ERU in Appaloosas and determine whether or not the mutation causing the white spotting pattern, for which the breed is known, is a contributing risk factor. This study is the first step toward developing an ERU screening test for Appaloosa horses, allowing for earlier diagnosis and intervention to decrease ERU-associated blindness in this breed.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Rebecca R. Bellone, University of California/Davis

Sponsors:

Study ID:

Evaluating Genetic Suppression of Oral Cancer Cells

Feline oral squamous cell carcinoma is a common cancer that responds poorly to treatment. A key mechanism in cats contributes to the invasive and malignant nature of this disease. This study identifies the gene that controls this mechanism and evaluates whether suppressing the gene in cancer cells could help treat the disease in cats.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Donald Andrew Yool, University of Edinburgh, Scotland

Sponsors:

Study ID: D13FE-007

Filling in Gaps in the Horse Genome Related to Tendon Health

Tendon diseases often result in severe lameness and debilitation for horses. Although the equine genome was released in 2007, major informational gaps still exist, slowing the discovery of new treatments and therapies. Using new sequencing technologies, researchers will identify previously unrecognized tendon-specific and tendon-associated genes. This study will provide for a more robust equine genome, will improve our understanding of tendon aging in horses, and will help advance the development of treatments for life-limiting lameness in horses.

Principal Investigator: Michael Mienaltowski, DVM, PhD, University of California, Davis

Sponsors:

Study ID: D17EQ-818

Generating a High-Density Genetic Map of the Feline Genome

Genome maps provide outstanding tools for scientists to study genetic disease. The cat genome was sequenced for the first time in 2007. Very recently a high-resolution sequence of the cat genome was completed using next-generation sequencing technology; however, 18 percent of the cat genome remains unrepresented in the map. These missing pieces will result in mapping ambiguities or inaccuracies in future mapping efforts. In this study, researchers will work to generate a high-density genetic map of the cat genome using a gene chip containing single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). The SNPs, genetic footprints found in DNA, function as genetic markers that will help scientists identify genetic predispositions to such diseases as diabetes, cancer, arthritis, kidney disease, infectious diseases and others. If successful, the accurate map could become a valuable resource for all future gene discoveries in domestic cats and a powerful veterinary model for gene discovery of hundreds of hereditary, infectious and chronic complex diseases.

 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Stephen J. O’Brien, National Cancer Institute

Sponsors:

Study ID: D12FE-501

Genetic loci underlying metabolic differences, metabolic syndrome and laminitis risk across breeds

Laminitis affects 15 to 20 percent of all horses over the course of their lifetime, and equine metabolic syndrom (EMS), a clustering of clinical symptoms, is considered the most common cause of this debilitating illness. It is currently difficult to identify horses and ponies at risk for laminitis or to develop new treatment and management strategies because there is a lack of knowledge regarding the disease pathophysiology, individual genetic characteristics, and how genes and environmental factors interact to cause EMS. Researchers will conduct a genome-wide analysis of Morgans and Welsh Ponies to identify genes and alleles associated with EMS and laminitis risk.. The results of this study will expand the understanding of genetic factors that contribute to EMS and will improve veterinarians’ ability to predict disease risk and identify animals that can benefit from management changes and/or therapeutic intervention prior to disease onset.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Molly E. McCue, University of Minnesota

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14EQ-033

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