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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 or call 800.243.2345. 

Search Results

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


Study ID: D12FE-503

Improving the Alpaca Genome Sequence Assembly

Developing a sequence-based whole genome map of the alpaca genome is critical to discovering genes that are linked to congenital disoders in this species. Use of the curent genome sequences is limited. This study will enhance the knowledge about the structure and function of the alpaca genome. The investigators will improve the current assembly and annotation of the alpaca genome by re-analyzing the existing genome sequences, adding sequence information from additional individuals, identifying alpaca genes and regulatory elements, and assigning sequences to individual alpaca chromosomes. The work will generate molecular tools for better governing genetic disorders, diseases and important traits in alpacas and other camelids. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Terje Raudsepp, Texas A&M AgriLife Research


Study ID: D14LA-005

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


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


Study ID: D16FE-011

Looking for genes associated with a lethal form of dwarfism in California condors

Summary: Researchers will study the genetic basis of chondrodystrophy (a lethal form of dwarfism) to help identify carriers of this fatal disorder in captive and wild California condors. 

Description: Chondrodystrophy is a lethal form of dwarfism that affects California condors. The disease is an inherited cartilage disorder that results in fatal skeletal malformations as well as late embryonic death. Researchers will study the genetic basis for chondrodystrophy in California condors in order to identify the genetic mutations associated with this condition in both captive and wild condors. Genetic mutations of interest will be evaluated for their diagnostic value and used to develop a genetic screening test. This test will be invaluable in guiding decisions about birds released into the wild or paired up in captivity to help save this critically endangered species.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Cynthia C. Steiner, The Zoological Society of San Diego


Study ID: D16ZO-302

Managing Disease for the Future: Identifying Strategies that Maximize Adaptive Capacity in Wild Populations

Currently, wild African buffalo are stringently monitored for bovine tuberculosis (bTB). Wildlife managers employ one of two bTB control strategies based on retaining either disease-resistant or disease-tolerant animals. However, these single disease trait strategies may be impacting the genetic variation of individual herds, inadvertently making them more vulnerable to bTB infection and other health concerns. Using DNA samples collected from free-ranging buffalo during a four-year period, researchers will investigate how disease control methods and resulting herd genetics correlate with bTB immune response and disease outcomes in wild herds. Identifying buffalo management strategies that support overall herd health and reduce genetically linked health issues will aid in the conservation of this iconic African species.

Principal Investigator: Anna E Jolles, PhD, Oregon State University


Study ID: D15ZO-824

MicroRNA Expression Profiling of Canine Osteosarcoma

Osteosarcoma, commonly known as bone cancer, is a significant cause of death in large and giant breed dogs. Because cancer is believed to be fundamentally a genetic disease, genomic approaches are needed to study canine bone cancer. Scientists have determined that microRNAs (miRNAs), small nonprotein-coding molecules, play an important role in a variety of human cancers. Using a custom microarray technology, which the investigators have developed in their laboratories, researchers will identify which miRNAs are expressed in osteosarcoma and which are associated with certain breeds and prognoses. By studying miRNA expression in osteosarcoma, the investigators hope to identify new molecular targets for therapy that will lead to better treatment of this disease.

Principal Investigator: Dr. W.C. Kisseberth, The Ohio State University

Sponsors: Fully Sponsored: Doreen Jakubcak & Michael Malchow; Portuguese Water Dog foundation, Inc.; GREYlong

Study ID: D07CA-034

Searching for candidate genes responsible for equine metabolic syndrome

Summary: Researchers will search for candidate genes associated with equine metabolic syndrome in five horse breeds – Arabian, Morgan, Quarter Horse, Tennessee Walking Horse, and Welsh Pony.

Description: Equine metabolic syndrome is a metabolic and hormonal disorder in horses characterized by insulin resistance, obesity and susceptibility to laminitis. Little is known about the genetic basis and variation of EMS within and across breeds, which limits the ability to predict disease risk and identify patients that can benefit from management changes or early intervention. Researchers will investigate breed-specific metabolic profiles in five horse breeds to help identify candidate genes associated with EMS using various genomic selection tools. These findings will provide a foundation for discovering new therapeutic targets and aid in the development of genetic tests to identify at-risk horses prior to the onset of clinical disease.

Principal Investigator: Felipe F. Avila, University of Minnesota


Study ID: D16EQ-401

Searching for Genes Responsible for Feline Obesity

Obesity and obesity-associated diseases are growing health threats to cats. A recent study determined that 19.0 percent of cats are overweight and 7.8 percent are obese. Multiple diseases, such as type 2 diabetes mellitus and dermatosis, are associated with excess body weight and may result in a lower quality of life and potentially an early death. Previous investigations revealed significant differences between lean and overweight cats. In lean cats, an average body fat content of 8.0 percent was observed, whereas overweight cats had an average body fat content of 25.6 percent. Researchers from the University of Sydney hypothesize that a single major gene may be responsible for a large fraction of the observed variation in body composition. This study will use SNP chips--a new genetic tool that could help better determine the genes involved.  SNP chips are a type of DNA chip that contain single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), genetic footprints found in DNA, to locate the genes potentially responsible for increased body weight. Identification of a causative mutation would allow genetic testing to facilitate the breeding of healthier cats. A better understanding of the control of body mass may also highlight better management options, such as diet.


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


Study ID: D12FE-513

Searching for Genetic Mutations Responsible for Heart Disease in Cats

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is the most common form of heart disease diagnosed in cats. Researchers will perform genetic analysis to look for a genetic cause for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in several cat breeds, including the Sphynx, Bengal, Siberian, British Shorthair and Norwegian Forest Cat. Identification of causative genetic mutations for hypertrophic cardiomyopathy will allow for early detection and genetic screening to reduce the prevalence of this disease. Information gained from this study will also help researchers improve treatments and clinical management strategies for cats with heart disease. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Kathryn M. Meurs, North Carolina State University


Study ID: D15FE-009

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