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FIVE GRANTS FOR FELINE HEALTH STUDIES

Dec 02, 2013

Media Contact:
Maureen Walsh 201.275.0624 or
Steve Dale 773.895.8696

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Wyckoff, NJ, December 2, 2013: The Winn Feline Foundation is pleased to announce the award of five feline medical research grants funded in partnership with the George Sydney and Phyllis Redman Miller Trust for 2013. Winn President Vicki Thayer, DVM, DABVP (feline) commented, “With the help of the Miller Trust, Winn Feline Foundation continues its 45 years of remaining at the forefront of providing funding for feline health studies at major institutions. As the only foundation focused exclusively on feline medical research financial support, we are in a unique position to help advance the body of medical knowledge on the cat. Through the Miller Trust we are awarding $122,066 in grants for studies on stem cell therapy for asthma, wool sucking behavior in Siamese and Birmans, feline infectious peritonitis and feline genome sequencing.”

Grants were awarded for the following research studies:

Effects of neurokinin-1 (NK1) receptor antagonism on acute and chronic airway inflammation and airflow limitation in experimental feline asthma $29,597.00 (MT13-001) Principal Investigator: Carol Reinero, DVM, DACVIM, PhD, Associate Professor and Director, Comparative Internal Medicine Laboratory, University of Missouri

Asthma is a common breathing disorder in cats, decreasing quality of life and sometimes causing death. In cats with certain genetic backgrounds and other environmental influences, inhaling what should be harmless airborne allergens triggers inflammation and constriction of the airways. These pathologic changes are, in part, thought to be mediated by complex crosstalk between nerves in the lung and immune cells. One class of mediators, the tachykinins, has not received much attention in veterinary medicine. However, there is evidence in experimental rodent asthma models and in humans with asthma that blocking the action of tachykinins with selective drugs can be a helpful treatment. One such drug, maropitant, already safely and widely used to treat vomiting in cats, may also be useful for asthma in pet cats. A prospective, randomized, placebo controlled study in experimentally asthmatic cats will determine if maropitant can reduce airway inflammation, clinical signs, and airway constriction. These results may provide a safe and effective alternative treatment to current therapies for pet cats with asthma.

“Feline Wool Sucking Study” in Siamese and Birmans $20,000.00 (MT13-002) Principal Investigators: Dr. Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, DACVB Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine & Leslie Lyons, PhD, University of Missouri – Columbia

This study is a continuation of work previously funded by the Winn Feline Foundation. “Wool sucking” is a behavioral condition that involves the repetitive searching, suckling, chewing and ingestion of non-food items. A negative consequence of this behavior is breakdown of the human-animal bond due to owners’ frustration with property damage and restricting their cats’ access to favored items. While wool sucking behavior can occur in any cat breed, the incidence is higher in oriental breeds, suggesting a genetic susceptibility. The goal of this study is to determine whether “wool sucking” has a genetic basis and whether the same genetic area of interest in Dobermans exhibiting a similar oral compulsion will be found in cats. Identification of a genetic locus(i) of interest could uncover the physiological mechanisms involved in the disorder, lead to better treatment options and provide a genetic screening test to identify carriers.

Pharmacokinetic and toxicity testing of novel feline coronavirus protease inhibitors in laboratory cats $22,464.00 (MT13-006) Principal Investigator: Neils Pedersen, DVM University of California - Davis

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a disease caused by a coronavirus that kills 1 in 300 cats in the US and up to 5% of kittens coming from pedigreed catteries, shelters and cat/kitten rescue facilities. In spite of extensive studies, there is yet no effective preventive or treatment for FIP and once clinical signs appear, mortality is essentially 100%. Vaccines to date have proven to be ineffective in preventing FIP. However, antiviral drugs may be able to treat, if not cure, the disease in a manner similar that currently used to treat people infected with HIV/AIDS. HIV contains a number of proteins that have become effective targets for virus inhibitory drugs and these same types of proteins are found in coronaviruses. One particular target protein is the viral protease, an enzyme that is essential in forming infectious virus. Protease inhibitors are currently under development and appear promising based on cell culture and mouse/swine infection models. The goal of this study is to initiate testing these first-generation anti-corona viral drugs in cats to determine optimal dosage, routes of administration, duration of action, and acute and chronic toxicity. The ultimate goal is to identify compounds that can be safely and effectively used to treat cats with FIP.

Transduction of hematopoietic stem cells to stimulate RNA interference for treatment of feline infectious peritonitis $ 19,453.04 (MT13-008) Principal Investigator: Rebecca P. Wilkes, DVM, PhD, University of Tennessee, College of Veterinary Medicine

Feline coronavirus (FCoV) infection is ubiquitous in domestic cats, and while most FCoV-infected cats are healthy, or display only mild enteritis, a small number develop fatal feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) for which there is no treatment. Small-interfering RNAs (siRNAs) are small pieces of RNA that can guide the cell’s own machinery to inhibit viral replication and, thus, possibly provide a potential treatment. These siRNAs work well in cell culture, but an efficient means to deliver this material into a cat’s body is currently lacking. Therefore, since it is not possible to simply inject the siRNAs into cats due to siRNAs instability in blood, this project proposes modification of blood stem cells, isolated from feline bone marrow, by introducing genetic material that will direct the production of these siRNAs within the stem cells. Following modification, the stem cells could eventually be transfused back into the cat. Division of these altered blood stem cells will result in many daughter cells (macrophages) that will now have the ability to inhibit viral replication. Macrophages are the site for replication of the coronavirus. It is speculated that virus replication will be reduced enough to allow the cat’s immune system to control the infection. The goal of this project is to test the ability to efficiently, safely, and reproducibly introduce the genetic material into stem cell cultures and to test whether these transduced cells will produce RNAs that inhibit coronavirus replication.

9 Lives Cat Genome Sequencing Initiative $30,552.00 (MT13-010) Principal Investigator: Leslie Lyons, PhD, University of Missouri – Columbia

Recent genetic tools for the cat, namely a DNA array with 63,000 genetic tests that could be assayed at one time, has created a leap forward for studying genetic diseases. Within months, instead of years, using 20 – 40 cats instead of large extended families, several diseases and their causative mutations have been identified within highly inbred cats. For example, recently four studies led to identifying important mutations causing hypokalemic polymyopathy, craniofacial defect, and orofacial pain syndrome - all in Burmese, and the curly coat phenotype in Selkirk Rex. Although the present DNA array assisted in mutation detection in inbred cats, a much higher density DNA array is needed to perform studies in less inbred cats, such as the normal housecat. This application proposes to whole genome sequence 9 cats (9 Lives) that have genetic disease traits previously identified, and will be the first step in providing a denser array and more accurate assembly of the cat genome. The data will make other genome studies more efficient and cost effective than to study each trait and disease of interest individually. It is hoped that this 9 Lives project will kick start a bigger, more ambitious effort to sequence 99 genomes of the cat – The 99 Lives Cat Genome Initiative.

The Winn Feline Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 1968 that supports studies to improve cat health. Since 1968, the Winn Feline Foundation has funded over $3 million in health research for cats at more than 30 partner institutions world-wide. For further information, go to www.winnfelinefoundation.org

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