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Morris Animal Foundation Supports CVM Research

Selected researchers at the North Carolina State University’s College Veterinary Medicine (CVM) are recipients of Morris Animal Foundation grants that total more than $1.2 million for investigations aimed at improving the health of dogs, cats, horses, and wildlife.

More specifically, Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) is providing $1,212,671 to help support 12 different studies being conducted by 10 CVM researchers.

“Funding provided by the Morris Animal Foundation is greatly appreciated by our researchers and by the CVM,” says Dr. David Dorman, Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies. “The mission of the Morris Animal Foundationis to fundhealth studies that protect, treat and cure companion animals and wildlife.Oftentimes work funded through the MAF would not be supported by other agencies. These grantshelp support individual research laboratories and help maintain and advancethe research mission of the CVM.”

The support includes $224,078 for efforts by Dr. Shila Nordone and Dr. Adam Birkenheuer to develop a rapid, specific test for sepsis that will improve diagnosis, care, and survival rates for dogs that develop the problem. A severe bacterial infection, sepsis is aggressive, complex condition with significant mortality rates. Drs. Nordone and Birkenheuer are investigating a newly discovered molecule (TREM-1) that is a specific marker of sepsis in mice and humans to determine whether it could indicate sepsis in dogs.

Canine soft-tissue sarcomas are common and while many are easily treated, the disease can spread and become deadly to about one-third of affected dogs. Predicting which dogs will develop metastasis would improve canine cancer treatment. Dr. Marlene Hauck is a recipient of a $141,000 grant for her work in comparing gene and protein expression patterns of tumors that spread to those that do not. The goal: a test for predicting metastasis that will help veterinarians treat patients and improve understanding of the disease so  scientists can further study potential intervention therapies.

The MAF is also providing Dr. Hauk with $113,230 for her investigation into hypoxia—low oxygen level—in canine tumors. Cells experiencing intermittent hypoxia may be more resistant to standard therapy than cells undergoing chronic hypoxia. Dr. Hauk’s research will define the genes associated with chronic and intermittent hypoxia to give clinicians a tool—based on the type of hypoxia—to better tailor therapy for individual patients.

A grant of $135,217 supports Drs. Jody Gookin and Katie Tolbert in an ongoing study of an infectious pathogen called Tritrichomonas foetus, which can colonize the colon of cats leading to inflammation and diarrhea. The infection is a significant issue, particularly for cats living in catteries or shelters. Safe treatment options are lacking and infected cats can have chronic diarrhea and remain infected for life. The study will use T. foetus-intestinal cell cultures to examine the mechanisms that cause diarrhea, and will test oral drugs that may inhibit these mechanisms.

Dr. John Marshall’s research into a new pain-relieving drug to increase survival of horses with colic is supported by a $100,000 grant. A major cause of death in horses, colic may be treated by the surgical removal of an injured intestine but complete removal of a damaged intestine is not always possible and this decreases survival rates. A drug commonly used to treat colic is critical for pain relief, but it has been shown to inhibit intestinal healing. Dr. Marshall’s study examines whether a new drug will help the injured intestine recover while providing pain relief.

The MAF was founded in 1948 by Dr. Mark L. Morris Sr., a veterinarian whose research on diet and animal health saved dogs from kidney failure and helped revolutionized the pet food industry. The MAF—the world's largest nonprofit foundation dedicated to funding research to protect, treat, and cure animals—supports studies in more than 50 of the world’s leading research institutions, colleges of veterinary medicine, and zoos.

The complete list of MAF-supported research:

Canine: Evaluation of TREM-1 as a Specific Biological Marker for Sepsis in Dogs
D08CA-085, Shila K. Nordone, Grant Amount: $224,078

Canine: The Identification of a Metastatic Signature in Canine Soft-Tissue Sarcomas
D09CA-031, Marlene L. Hauck, Grant Amount: $141,751

Feline: Mechanisms of T.foetus Epithelial Pathogenicity and Novel Sites for Pharmacological Control
D08FE-040, Jody L. Gookin, Grant Amount: $135,217

Canine: Determination and Mapping of Acute and Chronic Hypoxia in Canine Tumors
D08CA-077, Marlene L. Hauck, Grant Amount: $113,230

Equine: Effect of Robenacoxib on Permeability and Recovery of Ischemic-Injured Equine Jejunum (Fellowship)
D08EQ-408, John F. Marshall, Grant Amount: $100,000

Feline: Cytogenetic Profiling: An Aid to Subclassification of Feline Abdominal Lymphoma
D08FE-044, Rachael Thomas, Grant Amount: $91,722

Feline: Defining Relevant Pathways in Feline Injection-Site Sarcomas with Gene Expression Analysis
D08FE-001, Marlene L. Hauck, Grant Amount: $82,123

Feline: Development of a Validated Owner-Based Assessment System for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain in the Cat
D08FE-043, B. Duncan X. Lascelles, Grant Amount: $81,017

Wildlife: Comparative Molecular Cytogenics of the Canidae
D08ZO-022, Matthew Breen, Grant Amount: $79,176

Canine: Treatment of Chronic Paraparesis in Dogs using a Novel Derivative of 4-Aminopyridine
D09CA-038, Natasha J. Olby, Grant Amount: $79,002

Canine: Elimination of Inflammation and Lens Capsular Opacity after Cataract Surgery in Dogs
D09CA-037, Brian C. Gilger, Grant Amount: $52,971

Feline: Impact on Activity, Quality of Life and Cardiac Biomarkers in Cats with Apparently Asymptomatic Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Before and After Atenolol
D09FE-007, Teresa C. DeFrancesco, Grant Amount: $32,384

Posted Dec. 9, 2009