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NC State Receives $1.2 Million for Animal Health

Researchers at North Carolina State University have received grants totaling more than $1.2 million from the Morris Animal Foundation (MAF) to support research aimed at improving the health of dogs, cats, horses and wildlife.

“The mission of the Morris Animal Foundation is to fund health studies that protect, treat and cure companion animals and wildlife,” says Dr. David Dorman, associate dean for research and graduate studies at NC State’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM). “Oftentimes work funded through the MAF would not be supported by other agencies. These grants help support individual research laboratories and help maintain and advance the research mission of the CVM.”

The MAF is providing $1,212,671 to support 12 different studies being conducted by 10 CVM researchers. The funding 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. A severe bacterial infection, sepsis is an aggressive, complex condition with significant mortality rates. 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.

The grants will also support cancer research. Dr. Marlene Hauck received $141,000 to support her work on canine soft-tissue sarcomas, and an additional $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. 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. 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. Marshall’s study examines whether a new drug will help the injured intestine recover while providing pain relief.

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.

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