Winn Foundation Announces Award of Six Grants for Important Feline Health Studies

The Winn Feline Foundation is pleased to announce the award of six grants funded in partnership with the George Sydney and Phyllis Redman Miller Trust in 2007. The Trust designated the Winn Foundation as one of its advisor organizations in its desire to “support medical research to investigate the causes, prevention and development of cures for diseases of . . . domestic cats.” Winn President Susan Little, DVM, commented, “I am pleased that theexpertise of the Winn Foundation and its veterinary consultants has been called upon to assist in the distribution of these funds. We are excited about the proposals that have received funding. This year we awarded $99,909 in grants for studies on feline herpesvirus, interstitial cystitis, a new form of retinal disease, and adverse effects of vaccinations, among others.

RNA interference of feline herpesvirus by synthetic siRNAs in corneal epithelial cells.Rebecca P. Wilkes, DVM and Stephen A. Kania, PhD; University of Tennessee. $15,000(Continuation of previously funded project

Feline herpesvirus 1 (FHV-1) is a virus that causes 50% of the cases of feline respiratory disease. Vaccines available for this virus are only minimally effective and drugs that are used to treat herpesvirus infections in humans do not work well in cats. Therefore, development of a new treatment for cats would be beneficial. RNA (ribonucleic acid) is very similar to DNA and is amolecule used by some organisms to store genetic material. RNA interference is a cellular mechanism that is activated by the introduction of RNA into cells. The cellular machinery that is involved in this process has a natural anti-viral role in plants. It has already been shown that RNA interference can be used to reduce the production of FHV-1 in cat kidney cell cultures.RNA interference is a potential treatment for FHV-1. The purpose of this study is to evaluateRNA interference for FHV-1 in cat corneal cells, cells which naturally are infected by this virus.

Association of vaccine administration with systemic disease in cats.Michael Lappin, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, and Jacqueline C. Whittemore, DVM, PhD, DACVIM;Colorado State University. $25,000

It has been previously shown that several cat FVRCP vaccines (vaccines against felineherpesvirus, calicivirus and panleukopenia) contain proteins from the cells used to grow theviruses in the laboratory. The cell culture used is called the Crandell Rees Feline Kidney (CRFK)cell line. It has been shown that administering FVRCP vaccines containing CRFK proteinscauses formation of antibodies against cat kidney cell proteins. Some cats that received repeatedinjections of these proteins developed kidney disease. The identity of three of these proteins (á-enolase, annexin A2, cap G/macrophage capping protein) has been discovered. Antibodiesagainst two of these proteins, á-enolase and annexin A2, are associated with immune-mediateddisease in people where the antibodies damage multiple organs like the kidneys, joints, eyes, andbrain. It is possible that kidney disease and other common feline disease syndromes may developas a result of over vaccinating cats. This study will develop and validate tests for antibodiesagainst these proteins. A large population of cats will be evaluated using the new tests todetermine whether protein-specific antibodies are increased in cats with certain blood workabnormalities. Finally, test results for healthy cats will be compared with results from cats withkidney disease, pancreatitis, stomatitis, and uveitis to determine whether antibody production isassociated with these diseases. Results from this study may help design safer feline vaccines inthe future.

Adrenocortical function in cats with feline interstitial cystitis.C. A. Tony Buffington, DVM. PhD, DACVN and Linda Lord, DVM, PhD; The Ohio StateUniversity. $25,920

The purpose of this study is to learn more about the causes and treatment of feline interstitialcystitis (FIC). This syndrome is the most common cause of lower urinary tract signs in domesticcats, occurring in approximately 1% of owned cats. The signs of FIC include pain, bloody urine,and urinating outside the litter box. Millions of cats are euthanized as a result of this disease,making it a major veterinary problem and feline welfare issue. The researcher’s laboratory hasidentified problems with normal function of the adrenal gland, an important source of manyhormones. These problems may play an important role in the causes of and treatment of thesecats with FIC. Based on earlier studies, the researchers will compare hormone concentrations in32 neutered healthy and FIC cats of both sexes. The data will be used to design hormonereplacement therapy to test the effects of hormone replacement on the signs of the disease. It ishoped that replacement therapy will result in clinically important improvements in the cats’symptoms.

A novel heritable progressive retinal atrophy in the Bengal cat breed.Leslie A. Lyons, PhD; University of California, Davis. $7,260

Different forms of inherited blindness are common in many species, including humans and cats.Several forms of blindness that destroy the photoreceptors in the retina of the eye have beendiscovered in cats. These conditions will randomly appear in a particular cat breed and thenbecome inherited. Often, two copies of the abnormal vision gene need to be inherited to producethe blindness. The abnormal gene can become established in a breed unknowingly and revealitself only with particular matings. Some forms of blindness attack the photoreceptors shortlyafter birth, while other forms take a longer time to destroy the vision layer of the eye. Severalcats of the Bengal breed have been diagnosed with a form of blindness that is destroying theirvision at around 5 months of age. However, the progression and clinical characteristics of thedisease still need to be defined. This project proposes to characterize the disease clinically so thatveterinarians and breeders will be more aware of the problem. In addition, breeders will helpidentify blind cats and their relatives to help determine better breeding practices to prevent thedisease and to build a database for future genetic studies.

Are differences in feline calicivirus (FCV) tissue tropism and virulence determined bychanges in virus interactions with cell surface glycans?John S. L. Parker, DVM, PhD; Baker Institute for Animal Health, Cornell University. $15,750

Feline caliciviruses (FCV) are common pathogens of cats and are increasingly being recognizedas a cause of severe virulent systemic (VS-FCV) disease. Compared to other strains of FCV, VSFCVstrains infect a broader range of cell types. The interaction between a virus and specificmolecules on the cell surface often determines the types of cells that can be infected; the correctcomplement of ‘receptor’ molecules is necessary for a virus to infect a particular cell type. Twocellular receptors have been identified for FCV ” feline junctional adhesion molecule A (fJAMA)and sialic acid, a sugar molecule. These researchers are investigating the link between FCVreceptor interactions and strain virulence. The goal of this project is to determine the capacity ofVS-FCV and non-VS-FCV strains to bind specific sugar molecules on the cell surface and toidentify the role this plays in FCV infection of different cell types. In the longer term, thefindings will facilitate understanding of the mechanisms by which FCV cause disease.

Oxidative stress and antioxidant therapy in cats with renal failure.Craig B. Webb, PhD, DVM; Colorado State University. $10,979

Chronic renal failure (CRF) is a common disease of aging cats. The majority of current therapiesare non-specific, directed toward controlling clinical consequences of the disease such as nausea,dehydration and decreased appetite. Some of the current treatments are potentially problematic,such as using human recombinant erythropoietin to counter the cat’s anemia, which puts thepatient at risk for developing autoantibodies and transfusion dependency. Oxidative stress, theimbalance between pro- and anti-oxidants, is thought to play a key role in the progression ofCRF and the complications seen in human renal failure patients. Despite the importance ofoxidative stress in patients with CRF, thus far there is only a single study looking at the effect ofsupplementing CRF cats with antioxidants (vitamins), and it proved to be beneficial. This studyis designed to examine the key components of the cat’s antioxidant defense system in thisdisease. A variety of measures of oxidative stress will be studied, as well as clinical parameterssuch as body weight and blood pressure. If successful, this study would lay the foundation fordeciding on the most appropriate antioxidant supplementation, allowing veterinarians to offer aneffective treatment for CRF in cats.


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