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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

Identifying Genes to Create a Vaccine Against a Deadly Feline Parasite

Cytauxzoonosis is a life-threatening disease of domestic cats that is similar to malaria in humans. Without treatment, 97 percent of cats with cytauxzoonosis die, and even with the best available treatments, morbidity is extreme and mortality rates approach 40 percent. regardless of the outcome, treatment can cost thousands of dollars. the geographic distribution of the parasite has spread rapidly since its discovery in the 1970s, and cytauxzoonosis has been diagnosed in 35 of the states in the continental United States. researchers recently deciphered the Cytauxzoon felis genome sequence and identified about 4,300 protein-coding genes, each of which represents a possible protective antigen. They will now identify and prioritize which of these genes are the best vaccine candidates. This study is a critical first step in the development of a vaccine against this disease. ultimately, researchers believe a successful C. felis vaccine will save the lives of thousands of cats and thereby save their owners from emotional and financial hardship. The project will also help train at least two DVM/PhD graduate students who are preparing for careers in animal health.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Adam Birkenheuer, North Carolina State University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D12FE-026

Identifying Genetic Causes of Coronavirus and FIP

There are two types of feline coronavirus (FCoV), and an infected cat’s prognosis depends on which type of virus infects the cat. Feline enteric coronavirus is more common and causes only mild gastrointestinal disease. Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP ), however, which constitutes 10 percent of FCoV infections, spreads rapidly and can result in death, most frequently in young cats. Currently, no tests are available to determine if a cat is infected with FIP . Though little is known about what accounts for the difference in disease manifestation, the two types of FCoV are genetically very similar. Researchers will identify the genetic regions responsible for causing disease. This information will help in developing early diagnostic tools and lay the foundation for developing better vaccines and treatment options for this disease.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Yvonne Drechsler, Western University of Health Sciences

Sponsors:

Study ID: D10FE-303

Identifying Genetic Differences in an Emerging Parasite in Cats

The parasite Tritrichomonas foetus produces significant reproductive problems in cattle and is rapidly emerging as a serious problem in cats. T. foetus infection in cats produces prolonged and intractable diarrhea, often leading to large-bowel disease. Studies have not yet determined whether feline and bovine isolates are distinct species, although drug assays have revealed different sensitivities between the isolates. In this study, researchers will evaluate and compare multiple isolates of the parasite to determine their genetic differences. This will allow development of more effective therapeutics and preventive strategies and shed light on the potential transmission of this parasite to cats.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Rebecca P. Wilkes, University of Tennessee

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14FE-021

Identifying Lymphoma Subtypes for Better Treatment

The prognosis for cats with gastrointestinal (GI) lymphoma, which is among the most common cancers of cats, varies widely depending on the cancer subtype. This study identifies chromosomal abnormalities in feline GI lymphomas to help classify this cancer into subtypes for more effective treatment. It also investigates the relationship between feline GI lymphoma and inflammatory bowel disease.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Rachael Thomas, North Carolina State University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D13FE-008

Identifying Molecular Markers of Virulent Feline Calicivirus Infection

Feline calicivirus (FCV), a common viral disease that affects cats, causes upper respiratory symptoms, pneumonia and mouth sores. Despite increased vaccination rates, FCV remains a highly prevalent feline pathogen that causes significant morbidity and occasional death. the available vaccines protect against disease but not infection, and the most devastating type of the disease can still appear in cat populations. researchers will examine the interaction between FCV and a cell surface receptor called feline junctional adhesion molecule A (fJAM-A). They suspect that newer, more virulent isolates of FCV undergo dramatic changes when they interact with fJAM-A and that these changes make the strains more efficient at infecting cats. the information from this study could help identify the virulent virus early so cats can be treated quickly.

Principal Investigator: Dr. John S. Parker, Cornell University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D12FE-002

Identifying Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Heart disease usually strikes cats in the prime of their lives—around 4 to 6 years of age but as young as 1 year old. Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common type of feline heart disease and the greatest cause of cardiovascular disease and death. Identification of clinical risk factors in humans has improved patient health and survival. Although feline HCM is remarkably similar to HCM in people, clinical markers that could identify at-risk cats aren’t available. Lack of this vital information inhibits efforts to develop effective preventive therapies. This study involves 27 board-certified cardiologists from 24 specialty hospitals throughout the country and is the first comprehensive, long-term clinical evaluation of HCM in cats. The team hopes to discover risk factors for HCM that could be used to improve patient care and increase survival.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Philip R. Fox, Animal Medical Center

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Hal & Marty Hendershot; Hunkeler Family Fund

Study ID: D09FE-026

Identifying the Genetic Mutation for Heart Disease in Maine Coon Cats

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common cardiac disease in cats. Affected cats develop heart problems when they are about 2 to 4 years old. HCM may eventually be fatal months to years after initial symptoms are seen; however, the age of onset and the clinical course of this disease are highly variable. Most likely there are several different genetic mutations that cause HCM in cats. Researchers will study HCM in Maine Coon cats. There are already two genetic tests for HCM in Maine Coons but these tests are fairly ineffective in predicting disease. Researchers will perform a genome-wide association study to identify new genetic risk factors for HCM in Maine Coons, using SNP chips, a type of DNA chip that contains single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) or genetic footprints, to identify disease causing mutations in DNA. They will compare the genomes of 72 affected and 72 non-affected cats to identify consistent genetic differences between the two groups that will indicate the particular genome region where the mutation is located and thus facilitate its identification. Once a causative mutation for HCM is identified, a genetic test could be developed. This study has potential to reduce or even eliminate HCM from the Maine Coon population by a targeted breeding program.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Gerhard Wess, University of Munich

Sponsors:

Study ID: D12FE-503

Improving Diagnostic Tools for Classifying Soft-Tissue Sarcomas in Cats

Injection-site sarcomas in cats are aggressive, locally invasive and prone to postsurgical recurrence. Distinguishing between injection-site sarcomas and other less aggressive sarcomas remains challenging. Researchers will expand upon their previous findings to produce a sophisticated research tool for DNA-based characterization of feline soft-tissue sarcomas. Using this tool may help veterinarians distinguish between injection-site sarcomas and other less aggressive sarcomas, thereby assisting them with diagnosis and the selection of the most appropriate treatment plan for each patient. Researchers will also identify genes that may be associated with the development of these cancers, and this information may reveal potential therapeutic targets. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Rachael Thomas, North Carolina State University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D15FE-008

Improving the Feline Genome Assembly

Recently, domestic cat genome maps and sequencing resources have been effectively used to map and identify more than a dozen genes that influence feline disease and coat color. Many of these studies have led to genetic tests, but large fractions of the genome are misassembled and disagree with previous maps. Resolving the location and structure of duplications is critical, as a growing body of literature suggests that these structurally unstable regions hold information about a large number of diseases. Researchers will work to improve the feline genome sequence assembly using approaches made possible with recent technologies. A new ultra- high-resolution radiation hybrid map will be created using a new-generation sequencing-based genotyping method that has the potential to map millions of sequences across the genome. The results of this study will significantly improve the quality of the feline genome assembly and enhance the tools scientists use to study genetic diseases in cats.

Principal Investigator: Dr. William J. Murphy, Texas A&M University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D12FE-019

Improving the Feline Genome Assembly

Researchers will improve the quality of the feline genome assembly, an important tool for studying genetic causes and risks associated with diseases in cats.

Principal Investigator: William J. Murphy, PhD, Texas A&M University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D16FE-011

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