Neurologic & Genetic Diseases
When it comes to treating neurological diseases, cancers and many other types of illnesses affecting both people and pets, it’s all about delivery — or how treatments and therapies can be delivered in the most effective and beneficial manner. At the Scott-Ritchey Research Center, some of the most notable work is underway in the field of gene therapy, or the delivery of normal genes into cells to replace missing or defective ones in order to correct genetic disorders. Such a delivery system has already been used successfully on both cats and in ongoing human clinical trials for GM1 gangliosidosis, Tay-Sachs disease and Sandhoff disease. The method also holds great promise for ongoing research at the center focused on the treatment of other debilitating diseases.
Just as with neurodegenerative diseases such as GM1 gangliosidosis and Tay-Sachs, gene therapy holds great potential as a delivery system for improved treatments for commonly occurring cancers such as osteosarcoma, mammary tumors and lymphoma. Scott-Ritchey cancer researchers are working toward a day when such therapy may even allow the tailoring of treatments to the characteristics of individual tumors, all of which are unique in both animal and human patients. In addition, they are seeking to better understand molecular medicine and the use of viral vectors in treating a variety of cancers. Many of these treatments are being translated into clinical trials in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital, in collaboration with the Department of Clinical Sciences and the Department of Pathobiology.
There are plenty of “fat cats” brought in as patients to the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Bailey Small Animal Teaching Hospital and Scott-Ritchey researchers are working hard to find better treatments for obesity. Many cat owners overfeed their feline friends, sometimes leading to obesity that can contribute to various health problems, including diabetes and cancer, just as it does with people. Working with other researchers across campus under the collaborative umbrella of the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Boshell Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases Research Program, Scott-Ritchey scientists are studying similarities between feline and human obesity, such as insulin resistance, liver problems, reduced life span and cancer. In the One Health tradition, they are also expanding the understanding of the links between obesity and diabetes in the hope that it will provide a better understanding and possible new treatments for diabetes.
Companion Animal Contraception
Almost one million stray dogs and cats are euthanized in animal shelters every year because there are simply not enough potential owners to adopt them. Traditional spay and neuter surgery, while one solution, is simply impractical in many cases due to the large numbers of feral dogs and cats that can’t be effectively captured for such procedures. But what if a sterilization method could be developed that might be delivered in food or shots to mass populations, drastically reducing the stray animal population that often must be euthanized? Scott-Ritchey researchers are seeking such solutions, including neurocontraception, which could alter the brain functions controlling reproduction. The goal is to help end the tragic deaths of hundreds of thousands of companion animals for which there are no homes.