OK, I’m not assuming that your golden retriever is going to rescue mudslide victims, sniff out bombs or detect low blood sugar levels. But if you have a golden retriever, it’s entirely possible that your dog could help save lives by advancing scientific knowledge. Interested?
The Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study is enrolling golden retrievers in an attempt to learn how to prevent cancer and other diseases in dogs. They’re hoping to enroll 3,000 dogs- could your dog be one of them? Click here to find out more about the study.
Golden retrievers are awesome. They’re one of the most popular breeds, but unfortunately, many die of cancer. Information gained from the dogs in this study will benefit all breeds and could possibly help humans, too. And it’s an easy enough job; during annual vet visits, it’s as simple as quick blood and urine samples sent off for analysis.
Do you own a golden? Do you have a friend with a golden retriever? Pass this along; let’s help them fill this study!
An opportunity for dogs to help people AND other dogs? It’s a win-win situation. It turns out that the biology of the most common kind of bone tumor in dogs (osteosarcoma) is that same as the biology of these tumors in children. By working with dogs with bone tumors, researchers can try different kinds of drugs in an attempt to increase the dog’s lifespan. While there’s no guarantee that a drug that works on these dogs will work in a human patient, researchers can get more information about the way the drug works on this particular cancer. This information will help them make a more educated guess as to whether or not it would work in a human. And while it would definitely be amazing if they could translate their results into humans, at the very least, they’re working hard to find an appropriate treatment for dogs with this disease!
In some research studies, animals are specifically bred for the particular study. In this study, their clinical trial involves pets that already have cancer. It’s estimated that only 5% of dogs with osteosarcoma will live past the age of 2. Awesome research- check it out!
As humans, we use ‘voice areas’ in our brains to recognize who is talking and determine the speaker’s emotion. The question: Do dogs process voices in the same way? Are dogs in tune to their owners’ emotions? The dog is often referred to as ‘man’s best friend.’ And new research is proving just how right that is!
It turns out that dogs also have dedicated ‘voice areas’ in their brains- and they’re in the same location as a human’s voice area. In a study looking at how dogs process different sounds, researchers in Hungary trained dogs (golden retrievers and border collies) to lie still in an MRI machine during brain scans while listening to dog and human sounds.
The study found that both humans and dogs were able to read the emotions of the other species correctly, and both responded to the emotions of the other species in similar ways.
What does this mean? Maybe the dog is man’s best friend because he really GETS us. If you own a dog, you’ve probably experienced this before. And now, when you think your dog is recognizing that you’re happy or sad, you can rest assured that you’re probably right!
Pets are considered by many to be a part of the family. Because of this, more and more pet parents are willing to do whatever it takes to keep their pets healthy and happy. And because of the demand for higher levels of care, complicated procedures to improve the quality of life are becoming more common.
Reconstructive surgery for a pet? Absolutely. From skin and bone grafts, eyelifts and nose jobs, Michael M. Pavletic in Massachussetts has pioneered dozens of reconstructive techniques for companion animals. And there’s definitely a demand for this- from pets with facial cancer to dogs involved in accidents requiring reconstructive surgery to ‘nose jobs’ for dogs like pugs with breathing problems, plenty of pets are going on to live healthy, happy lives with injuries that used to warrant euthanasia.
And through research into new reconstructive techniques, they’re currently testing an experimental compound- by creating a scaffold out of this material, they have been able to successfully grow new bone! And this is great news for the pets in treatment as well as for the rest of us. An awesome example of research in animals that will benefit us all!
Millions of people around the world suffer from hemophilia, a bleeding disorder that prevents the blood from clotting properly. Often, diseases that are found in humans are also found in animals, and in this study, researchers worked to find a treatment for dogs with naturally occurring hemophilia A.
Patients that suffer from hemophilia lack a coagulation factor (factor VIII) in their blood plasma. One treatment is to replace factor VIII via injection, but many hemophiliacs don’t respond to factor VIII therapy.
So researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin figured out a way to ‘sneak’ factor VIII into the body. They took cells that would eventually turn into platelets and engineered them to express factor VIII. The cells were put into the dogs and began to make platelets. And when bleeding events started, these platelets did their jobs and dumped their contents at the bleeding site- sending factor VIII right where it was needed!
Before this gene therapy, these Great Pyrenees had approximately five serious bleeding events each year. But after introducing these engineered platelet precursor cells, that number was significantly reduced, and the bleeding events were easily treatable! And 2 1/2 years after the gene therapy, platelets are still expressing factor VIII.
Next step: human clinical trials. Is this an example of humans helping animals… or animals helping humans?
Dogs giving pregnancy test results that rival over-the-counter accuracy? Yes! Keepers at the Cincinnati Zoo are working with a beagle named Elvis to determine polar bear pregnancy. Veterinarians found that ultrasound and progesterone monitoring are unreliable in determining pregnancy in these animals, so they turned to another option- and Elvis is pretty accurate!
Elvis is showing about 97% accuracy in determining pregnancy after sniffing fecal samples (pretty close to over-the-counter pregnancy tests for humans)! Earlier this year, his trainers were using samples from previously pregnant polar bears, so it will be interesting to see if Elvis’s predictions regarding this year’s potential moms are correct.
This is the first time that sniffer dogs are being used in biomedical research in wildlife species, and the applications are interesting- could sniffer dogs help researchers determine the reproductive health of other animals, both in captivity and in the wild? Read about it here:
It sounds strange… but it’s possible that buying your baby a puppy might be a GOOD idea. Let me explain.
The dust in your house consists of dead skin cells, decomposing insects, fibers from clothes and other fabrics, dirt and plant debris from outdoors, bacteria, pet dander, and a lot of other stuff that you probably don’t want to know about. Another fun fact: the microbes found in household dust usually correspond to the microbes found in the homeowners’ guts. Gross, right?
Well, microbes in your gut can influence your immune system. And research has shown that owning pets increases the diversity of the bacteria found in your household dust. (Not surprising.) But when researchers at UC San Francisco fed this bacteria-rich dust to mice, they found that the mice that ingested the “dog dust” were less likely to have allergic reactions than mice that ingested bacteria found in a non-pet home.
So far, it seems that the protective effects have their greatest impact on young offspring- especially newborns. If these new findings are confirmed in humans, this could help researchers in the development of probiotics for infants that could potentially reduce the risk of allergies later in life. But as this isn’t the first study showing a correlation between animal exposure early in life and reduced sensitivity to allergens, that puppy doesn’t sound like such a bad idea! Read more:
A dog is an important part of your family, and no one wants their dog to suffer! Near the end of my childhood companion’s life, watching her deteriorate was heartbreaking. So any advances in veterinary medicine that can allow our pets to be comfortable and relieve pain is good news! New research using a neurotoxin injection has proven successful in easing severe, chronic pain caused by late-stage bone cancer in dogs. Chronic pain is an issue that can severely affect quality of life.
This is a great example of animal research at its best. Not only was this therapy successful in dogs, but because the evolution of canine bone cancer pain is very similar to that in humans, information about what works and what doesn’t is extremely helpful in the development of new human drugs. Chronic pain in human cancer patients is a serious issue, as well, and it’s possible that humans will also be able to benefit from the same type of treatments that have helped dogs. Kind of gives a new meaning to “man’s best friend” when the research in dogs may one day help YOU!
Over 14,000 women die each year from ovarian cancer, which often avoids detection until it has spread. At the University of Pennsylvania, researchers are working hard to train dogs to detect ovarian cancer. The hope is that through studying disease-detecting capabilities in dogs, researchers will be able to develop a sensor that can detect cancer at early stages. With a sense of smell about a million times superior to a human’s, dogs have been used to detect bombs, drugs, insect infestations, and low blood sugar in diabetics. The dogs at U Penn are highly accurate at correctly identifying samples containing cancer cells. The goal is to study how the dogs identify these signals from different types of ovarian cancer samples and different compounds that change in ovarian cancer, and hopefully use this information to develop technology that could change a cancer patient’s prognosis through early detection. Talk about research in animals benefiting people- this is awesome!
Biomedical research in mice doesn’t just help humans- it can also benefit our four-legged companions. Stem cell therapy- using stem cells derived from the patient’s own fat- is extremely effective in treating arthritis in dogs, cats and horses. Take a look at this video, showing the improvement in a dog suffering from arthritis. This clip is from a Dogs 101 episode featured on Animal Planet about the Bearded Collie. Pay special attention to the footage between 2:15 and 5:30!
These results offer hope to human patients as well. Clinical trials are currently underway, and some doctors are already offering treatments using fat-derived stem cells to humans. A benefit of using stem cells derived from the patient’s own fat is that there is almost no chance of rejection- it comes from their own body! If you didn’t catch my earlier post about a new stem cell therapy in mice that is actually treating Alzheimer’s, scroll down to read “Alzheimer’s Disease: Can your FAT cure it?”
And stay tuned- with these results, it will be exciting to see what else fat-derived stem cells can do!