Winn Announces Five Grants Awarded in Partnership with the Miller Trust forImportant Feline Health Studies

The Winn Feline Foundation is pleased to announce the award of five grants funded in partnership with the George Sydney and Phyllis Redman Miller Trust in 2008. WinnPresident Dr. Susan Little commented, “”We are excited about the proposals that havereceived funding. This year we awarded $116,500 in grants for studies on feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, feline infectious peritonitis, and calcium oxalate bladder stones, among others.

MT08-001: SNP analysis in Siberian cats with HCM
Robert A. Grahn; University of California, Davis. $18,086
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common cardiac disorder of domestic cats. Maine Coons, Ragdolls, American Shorthairs, Devon Rex, Sphynx,Bengals and Siberians all have reports of HCM. Mutations in the gene MYBPC3 have been found in Rag dolls and Maine Coons, but this does not account for all the HCM in Maine Coons and the other breeds have not yet been evaluated. The feline conditionclosely resembles human HCM resulting from mutations in any of seven candidate genes.Naturally occurring sequence mutations have been identified near these genes that can beused to determine if said gene is associated with the disease or not. Over 100 sampleshave been submitted from Siberians for HCM testing. Multiple gene mutations mayresult in HCM in this breed, thus this project proposes to identify which gene or genes areinvolved by finding which affected cats are associated with which genes. Thus selectionof a gene for sequencing will be based upon scientific data as opposed to the best guess.

MT08-004: Molecular basis of feline coronavirus pathogenesis and development ofFIP in cats
Gary R. Whittaker; Cornell University. $35,514
Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a deadly disease of cats, caused by infection with feline coronavirus. The virus normally resides in the gut of the cat (enteric coronavirus),but can mutate and so infect the immune system of certain cats (FIP virus). Based on an analysis of the genome sequence of viruses that either infect the gut or the immune system, the researchers believe that key changes in the surface protein of the virus make it more efficient at infecting the cells of the immune system. They will perform laboratory-based experiments using gut and immune system cells to define the differences between the different viruses. The work will characterize the changes thatoccur in the virus surface protein and will allow a more detailed understanding of thedevastating disease of cats known as FIP, for which there remains no effective treatment.

MT08-007: Is the lack of oxalate degrading bacteria a risk factor for calciumoxalate urolith formation in cats?
Jody P. Lulich; University of Minnesota. $19,840
Calcium oxalate (CaOx) is the most common urinary stone in cats. Urinary stones are associated with difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, and life-threatening urinary tract obstruction. Stone removal is the treatment of choice; however, many will recur.Excessive urine oxalate concentration predisposes cats to CaOX urinary stones. Bacteria that degrade oxalate in the intestinal tract are correlated with absence of oxalate stones in other species. This study is designed to determine the association of these bacteria with development of urinary stones in cats. The researchers predict that the prevalence of intestinal bacterial that degrade oxalate will be lower in cats with CaOx than in clinically healthy cats. These results will help in the development of new therapies, such asprobiotics, to manage CaOx urinary stones in cats.

MT08-009: Unraveling feline stone genetics: Searching for associations betweenpolymorphisms in candidate genes and calcium oxalate stone formation in cats
Richard E. Goldstein; Cornell University. $23,615
Stone formation (urolithiasis) is an extremely common disorder of the cat urinary tract, with a major effect on the well being and mortality of our feline pet population.Over 50% of all feline urinary stones are made up of calcium and oxalate precipitatingtogether in the urine. Despite this, little is known about the genetics of stone productionin cats. Feline genetics is just now emerging with the publication of the feline genetic sequence, making genetic studies in cats more feasible than ever before. This proposal represents part of a broad initiative by the investigators to use a DNA bank that they are establishing from cats suffering from urinary stones, to unravel the genetic causes of and predispositions to stone formation in cats. The findings will contribute immensely to ourunderstanding of feline stone formation genetics and pathophysiology. In addition, thefindings of this study are likely to enable identification of cats at increased risk for stoneformation via genetic testing. Specific prevention programs can then be implemented forthese cats, even prior to their first episode of urolithiasis.

MT08-015: Heritable progressive retinal atrophy
Leslie A. Lyons; University of California, Davis. $19,445
The goal of this project is to investigate the progression of an inherited blindness(progressive retinal atrophy [PRA]) in Persians and decipher which gene results in the disease. Persian cats are the most popular cat breed throughout the world. PRA has similarities to a common inherited blindness in people called retinitis pigmentosa. Many other breeds use Persians as allowable out crosses. Thus, health problems in Persians can be spread quickly and widely in the cat world. PRA in Persians causes vision problems very early in life, at about 4 ” 8 weeks of age, and progresses very rapidly. Cats become completely blind by 15 weeks of age, but do not have other health issues. PRA is a recessively inherited disease, so that two copies of the mutation are required to cause blindness. Carrier cats, cats with one copy of the mutation, are perfectly healthy, but when bred may pass the mutation on to their offspring. Thus, a genetic test is required to detect these carrier cats so that they do not spread the mutation. This project is designedto analyze genetic markers on a chromosome suspected to be associated with PRA andalso to improve overall knowledge of the feline genome.


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