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Foundation Announces 2010 Grants for Feline Health Research

April 12, 2010

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The following information is excerpted from information published online by the Winn Feline Foundation, which recently announced grants to several researchers at the School of Veterinary Medicine.

The Winn Feline Foundation receives proposals from veterinary researchers around the world who are interested in improving feline health. Out of 50 proposals for 2010, our team of expert veterinary consultants helped the Foundation select 16 projects for funding for a record-breaking total of $183,391. The Winn Foundation looks forward to seeing the results of these projects and to sharing them with the veterinary community as well as with cat owners and pedigreed cat breeders.

10-013: Plasma homocysteine concentrations after methionine challenge in cats with and without hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
Karl E. Jandrey, DVM, MAS, DACVECC; Mark Kittleson, DVM, PhD, DACVIM; Jennifer Larsen, DVM, PhD, DACVN; University of California-Davis: $5,694
Cats with heart disease are at risk of sudden death from several possible causes. One cause is the formation of blood clots that block blood vessels that supply oxygen and nutrients to tissues. A similar problem is associated with humans with heart disease, heart attack, and/or stroke. This common emergency causes illness and death in both cats and humans. People at high risk for formation of blood clots have higher blood concentrations of an amino acid called homocysteine. In addition, low blood concentrations of B vitamins have been shown to be associated with the high concentrations of homocysteine in humans. This study will document the blood concentrations of homocysteine and B vitamins in a group of cats that have heart disease and are at risk for the development of blood clots. This study will also correlate the concentration of homocysteine to measurements of clot formation. The goal of our research is to identify the underlying cause and develop a novel therapy to prevent or reduce the incidence of thromboembolism. The identification of an early marker of clot formation may give veterinarians evidence to begin preventative therapy minimizing these fatal complications of heart disease in cats and humans.

10-008: Antinociceptive effects of fentanyl administered transdermally in cats
Bruno H Pypendop, DrMedVet, DrVetSci, DACVA; Jan E. Ilkiw, BVSc, PhD, DECVA; University of California-Davis: $5,670
Opioids are commonly used for the treatment of pain in cats. While they are considered to be highly efficacious, one main disadvantage to their use is their relative short duration of action, and therefore the need for repeated administration. Fentanyl is a potent opioid with a short duration of action. It is commercially available in patches, which are applied on the skin and provide continuous release for up to three days. They are therefore expected to produce continuous pain relief, with a single, non-invasive administration. While fentanyl patches are commonly used to treat pain in feline patients, their analgesic effect has not been studied using objective methods, leading to uncertainties as to onset and duration of effect. This is important, since practitioners using these patches may rely on the effect, and may not have the opportunity to reassess their feline patients often enough to detect inadequate analgesia early. The study proposed here will examine the effect of fentanyl patch application on an established model of pain in cats.

10-014: Cat Phenotypic Health and Information Registry (Cat PHIR)
Leslie A. Lyons, PhD; University of California-Davis: $14,000
Approximately 32% of households in the United States have a cat. While cats generally succumb to renal disease and cancer in old age, they are also plagued by a variety of infectious diseases. Cats suffer from many behavioral disorders, which are so significant that undesired behavior is one of the leading causes for cats to be placed in animal shelters. The cat lifestyle has become sedentary and indoor, mimicking that of humans. Thus, as found in humans, diabetes, obesity, and asthma are increasing in incidence in cats and are becoming chronic health concerns. As a result, veterinarians are beginning to perform genetic studies in cats. Improved electronic resources, the interest in obtaining genetic information about pets by owners and breeders, and the feasibility of retaining sufficient DNA sources all support the establishment of a focused system that can be used by researchers to develop disease projects in the cat. Here we propose to coordinate the health information, DNA banking, and cat pedigrees into an electronic, online database system that will assist the collection of individual data for complex disease studies. The resource development proposed will augment research for feline diseases, support clinical and laboratory-based research, and teaching within the veterinary community, and support the development of grant applications to funding agencies. This proposal will continue to develop resources that can be used not only by veterinary researchers, but will also be at the cutting edge of genomic technologies for more complex studies in the cat. The proposed name for the database system is the Cat Phenotypic and Health Information Registry (Cat PHIR).

10-015: Health concerns of dominant traits in domestic cats

Robert A. Grahn, PhD; Leslie A. Lyons, PhD; University of California-Davis: $15,000
While cats have been living with humans for nearly 10,000 years, selection for specific traits has only recently occurred. While many of these traits are innocuous, others occasionally have associated deleterious phenotypes. These include deafness in dominant white cats, lameness in Manx and Cymrics, and joint problems in Scottish Folds. These are all dominant traits and, in the case of Manx, Cymrics, and Scottish Folds, manifestation of the disease occurs when both maternal and paternal genes are affected. The genes and associated mutations that result in these phenotypes have yet to be identified. Similarly, the genetic mutation for dominant white and the allele for deafness have yet to be determined. This proposal will obtain sample sets sufficient for determining the causative genes for both dominant white/deafness and taillessness. Deaf cats will be determined via hearing tests by qualified veterinarians and small pedigrees, sufficient for candidate gene exclusion, will be established. Using available genetic resources, the samples collected will be used for case control studies to identify candidate genes.

For more information about the Winn Feline Foundation, please visit