Researchers Discover Biomarker Test For Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) is a life-changing neurodegenerative disease in humans that has no cure. In dogs, a similar disease is Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), and is just as debilitating. University of Missouri veterinary neurologist Dr. Joan Coates and colleagues found a genetic link between DM in dogs and ALS in humans in 2009. Dr. Coates and colleague Michael Garcia have now found that a diagnostic tool used to diagnose ALS in humans may also help diagnose DM in canines.

Related: Understanding the Basics About Degenerative Myelopathy in Dogs

The diagnostic test measures biomarkers that are released into spinal fluid and blood in humans when looking for ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s, and the researchers have now discovered that the same human diagnostic tools is able to detect the related disease in our furry family members.

Dr. Coates is looking for participants interested in trial evaluations for treating canine DM as well.

The disease typically affects older dogs and can lead to paralysis, much as it does in human counterparts. Over 30 purebred dog breeds have been confirmed to have had cases, and currently the diagnosis of DM is one of exclusion. This means that vets have to go through a lengthy rule-out process before they can come to a final diagnosis, says Dr. Coates. She says that because we know that ALS and DM are related, they are looking at ways that they can diagnose, measure progress of the disease and even possibly treat one day similarly as to how we do for ALS patients.

Related: Gene Therapy Promising For Neuromuscular Disease Treatment In Dogs and Humans

Dr. Coates is looking ultimately for ways to treat DM. The treatment methods she wants to test hopefully slow the progression of DM and improve quality of life for the dog. She is collaborating with ALS researchers to hold clinical trials at the University Veterinary Health Center (VHC) Small Animal Hospital. If you know of a dog affected by DM who may be able to participate in the treatment trials, you can contact Dr. Coates at coatesj@missouri.ed. 

 


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