Archived News


July 9, 2007

July 9, 2007

Dogs with degenerative myelopathy may show muscle weakness, an abnormal gait or posture, and less tolerance for exercise. The German shepherd breed seems particularly prone to this crippling autoimmune disease of the nervous system. There is no cure; however, a new veterinary study may provide hope for future treatment.

Research in mice indicates that some healing can take place in animals with degenerative myelopathy by injecting some of the animal’s own bone marrow stem cells into the affected area. These adult stem cells appear to transform themselves into nerve cells. Will such an approach work with dogs?

The American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation has approved a grant of $100,000 for Dr. Richard Vulliet, professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, to conduct safety trials using such adult stem cells in canine patients suffering from selected diseases including degenerative myelopathy.

Vulliet will prepare adult bone marrow stem cells (mesenchymal stromal cells) and oversee clinical trials to administer the cells into animals already affected by disease. He will initially investigate degenerative myelopathy and dilated cardiomyopathy.

"If we can show that the stem cell therapy is safe and cells really do transform at their new sites," Vulliet states, "we will take further steps to explore the effectiveness of this approach in improving patient health." Vulliet will work with regional specialists to identify appropriate study participants.

The AKC Canine Health Foundation has produced a video in which Dr. Vulliet describes the disease and the need for research in this challenging area. A second video from the foundation gives tips on caring for dogs with degenerative myelopathy.

The AKC Canine Health Foundation, founded in 1995 by the American Kennel Club, is the largest nonprofit worldwide to fund health research exclusively for canines. The foundation supports non-invasive genetic health research, stem cell research, and biotherapeutics benefiting both canines and humans. The foundation has allocated more than $18 million in canine health research funding through 74 schools and research institutions worldwide. UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine conducts a mission of teaching, research and service to benefit animal health, public health and environmental health. The school’s Center for Companion Animal Health, which fosters sophisticated studies of naturally occurring diseases to improve the health of dogs, cats and small alternative pets, will provide additional funding for this study.

Read the AKC Canine Health Foundation press release of July 9, 2007.

Media Contacts:

Jefferson Sossamon, Director of Development & Communications, AKC Canine Health Foundation, (919) 334-4015; (888) 682-9696 (toll free);

Dr. Richard Vulliet, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, (530) 752-7409;