Encouraging Research Links Heart Failure Cause and Treatment for Dogs and Humans
This is what you call heart smart! Researchers at the University of Guelph and Ontario Veterinary College are working together to discover the exact cause of doggy heart failure and how to treat it genetically.
If you ask the owner of a Doberman Pinscher, Great Dane or Irish Wolfhound what their furry child’s most common health problem is, they’ll immediately tell you it’s heart failure. The leading cause of heart failure is dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) or, in layman terms, a weak heart.
Scientists at the University of Guelph are currently undergoing testing to treat fatal heart failure in dogs, which may also help in diagnosing and treating heart disease in us humans. It’s a win/win outcome for both pet parents and their beloved pooches.
When a dog or human has DCM, the weakened heart muscles stop pumping blood. While the cause is unknown, researchers suspect it has something to do with genetics. Thirty to 50 per cent of DCM cases in humans are hereditary.
In a study that was published in January’s American Journal of Physiology, Glen Pyle and Lynne O’Sullivan, professors at the Ontario Veterinary College, worked with researchers at the University of Washington to test a brand-new therapy to treat diseased heart cells. Researchers believe that the malfunctioning muscle proteins cause the heart to weaken and inflate like an overfilled balloon and eventually result in cognitive heart failure.
The therapy involves introducing a molecule involved in muscle contraction. When introducing the molecule into dog hearts with DCM, the heart returned to its normal function – a groundbreaking success. The next step would involve developing a gene therapy that would allow the molecule to be produced in the heart muscles in patients who have a weak heart.
The study also allowed for the further discovery of other heart muscle problems that could also contribute to DCM. The scientists are working with researchers in Finland on DCM genetics and proteins, which may lead to the development of therapies to target specific proteins.
Because the heart of dogs and humans are so similar, this therapy could very well be the stepping stone in treating DCM cases in humans as well. Our hearts go out to all of the researchers involved in this important work.