2012 Feline Health Grants
Published: March 27, 2012
Winn Feline Health Foundation

EveryCat Health Foundation
(Formerly Winn Feline Health Foundation)
2012 Feline Health Grants
10 Grants Funded for a Total of $174,018

The Winn Feline Foundation has announced the award of ten feline medical research grants. Winn President Vicki Thayer, DVM, commented, “We are excited about the proposals that have received funding. Our team of expert veterinary consultants helped the Foundation select ten projects for funding for a total of $174,018. The Foundation looks forward to seeing the results of these projects and to sharing them with the veterinary community as well as with cat owners and pedigreed cat breeders.”

Each year, the Winn Feline Foundation receives proposals from veterinary researchers around the world who are interested in improving feline health. Forty‐four proposals were submitted by researchers seeking funding in this review cycle. To date, Winn’s cumulative total in feline health research funding exceeds $4 million.

Winn is seeking donations of $250 and up to sponsor specific projects. Sponsors will receive progress reports as they are received by Winn and copies of any publications that result and are provided by the researcher. A listing of the projects available for sponsorship appears at the end of the descriptions. Donations can be made on line at www.winnfelinehealth.org.

Winn Feline Foundation will fund the following research projects in 2012.

Ricky Fund Project

The Efficacy of Bosentan, a Mixed ETa ETb Receptor Antagonist, in Cats with Arterial Thromboembolism; $18,728
Elizabeth Rozanski, DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC; Gareth Buckley MA, VetMB, MRCVS, DACVECC; Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University. W12‐037

Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy is a very common heart disease in cats. One of the most devastating complications of heart disease is development of blood clots called feline aortic thromboembolism (ATE), which cuts off the blood supply to one or more limbs. ATE is associated with a survival rate of less than 40% despite multiple efforts to try to improve outcomes. It is important to cats and their owners to be able to offer an intervention that improves survival with a good quality of life. Cats are recognized to have “reactive” blood vessels, and this response may worsen the outcome in ATE. The arteries in cats suffering from ATE will release various chemicals including one called endothelin. Endothelin causes an increased tendency to form more clots, and promotes severe inflammation and narrowing of collateral vessels supplying areas behind the site of the clot. Bosentan is a drug used successfully in people to treat various diseases such as coronary artery disease. This study looks to determine the effectiveness of bosentan in the treatment of cats with ATE.

Bria Fund Project

Anti‐immune Evasive Therapy in the Treatment of FIP ‐ A Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial; $24,962
Prof. Dr. Hans Nauwynck; Sabine Gleich, DVM; Laboratory of Virology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Belgium. W12‐026

Feline coronavirus exists in two forms: a less harmful (avirulent) strain that can cause mild enteritis and a highly pathogenic (virulent) strain that causes a progressive and usually fatal disease known as feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Cats living in multi‐cat environments (e.g., shelter cats or cats in breeding catteries) are at a particularly high risk to develop FIP. An effective therapy is currently not available and affected cats usually succumb to their disease. Previous research has shown that FIP virus can evade the host’s immune system and that a specific blocking agent can inhibit this evasion mechanism. In this project, the investigators want to evaluate the efficacy of the inhibitor as a treatment for FIP in 10 naturally infected cats. The goal of this study is to improve the quality of life and survival of FIP affected cats by enabling the host’s immune system to recognize and destroy infected cells.

Breed-Funded Projects

Fine Mapping for Sphynx Cat Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy Gene; $24,674
Kathryn Meurs, DVM, PhD, DACVIM; North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. This study is partially funded by the efforts of Sphynx breeders and owners. W12‐009

Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common cause of heart disease in the adult cat. Affected cats are at risk of sudden death, breathing difficulties or development of a blood clot. Feline HCM is noted to be inherited in the Maine Coon and Ragdoll breeds. In these two breeds, causative genetic mutations have been associated with the development of the disease. This project will continue the study of HCM in the Sphynx breed. A genome wide association study has identified a particular chromosomal area as a region of interest associated with the development of HCM. A close evaluation of this chromosomal region of interest will follow to determine the gene and ultimately the causative genetic mutation. Ultimately, the identification of a genetic cause for HCM in the Sphynx can be used to reduce the prevalence of the disease in this breed and provide information on this disease in many other breeds of cats as well.

Molecular Characterization of Bengal Progressive Retinal Atrophy; $4,221
Robert A. Grahn, PhD; University of California – Davis. W12‐022. Winn anticipates that funding for this study will be aided by the efforts of Bengal breeders and owners.

Inherited blindness is a devastating disease common to many mammalian species. In people, over 25 different forms of inherited retinal blindness have been clinically characterized. Cats also have several forms of blindness that destroy the photoreceptors at the back of the eye. These conditions will randomly occur in a particular cat breed and then will be inherited. Some forms of blindness attack the photoreceptors shortly after birth, while other forms take longer to destroy the layer of the eye responsible for vision. Several Bengal cats have been diagnosed with a form of blindness that destroys their vision at around 5 months of age. A genome wide association case control study has indicated a candidate region for Bengal PRA. This proposal will obtain the sequence of the RNA and DNA of this gene to identify the mutation causing Bengal PRA and allow for the development of a genetic test to help reduce the prevalence of blindness in this breed.

New Projects

Immunohistochemical Quantification of the Transcobalamin II Protein (TCII) and Receptor (TCII-R) in Naturally Occurring Feline Tumors; $17,663
Annette M. Sysel, DVM, MS; Joseph A. Bauer, PhD; Bauer Research Foundation, Akron OH. W12‐005

Cancer affects 4 million cats annually in the United States, and accounts for approximately 32% of disease‐related feline deaths. There are only two FDA‐approved drugs available for the treatment of cancer in animals and they are labeled exclusively for use in dogs. Current treatment of cancer in cats is based largely on extrapolation from human and canine therapies. Cancer cells rely on vitamin‐B12 (cobalamin) for cell growth. Cancer cells produce transport proteins to scavenge vitamin‐B12, and they express more vitamin‐B12 receptors on their surface than healthy cells. Current research is focusing on the use of vitamin‐B12 in tumor imaging as well as anti‐tumor therapy. Nitrosylcobalamin (NO‐Cbl), an anti‐tumor drug, uses vitamin‐B12 to target cancer cells where the vitamin‐B12 is bound to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is toxic to cancer cells. NO‐Cbl is bound to transport proteins and carried to the receptors on the cancer cells, delivering a toxic nitric oxide payload. Toxicity to other cells is avoided since cancer cells express more vitamin‐B12 receptors than normal cells and nitric oxide release occurs only inside the cells. Vitamin‐B12 transport protein and receptor expression has never been studied in feline tumors. The purpose of this study is to quantify this protein and receptor expression in feline tumors using immunohistochemical staining. Results from this study will be used to identify feline tumors susceptible to vitamin‐B12‐ based imaging and treatment with drugs such as NO‐Cbl.

Development of Outcome Assessment Instruments for Chronic Pain in Cats; $24,513
Dorothy Cimino Brown, DVM, DACVS; University of Pennsylvania. W12‐027

Cats are unique. They cannot benefit from the same pain fighting medications used in dogs, because they may cause serious side‐effects in cats. It is crucial that pain‐fighting, safe and effective medications are identified for cats. Studies must be carefully designed in order to prove that the potential new treatment option is effective. A major obstacle is the lack of reliable methods to measure pain in cats, thus proving treatment is appropriately effective. The goal of this study is to develop tools that can measure pain in cats and therefore appropriately design studies that will identify new treatments. The first tool is the “Feline Brief Pain Inventory”, which will be an owner completed questionnaire that will allow them to identify and report on how their cat behaves at home. The second tool is an activity monitor that can be worn on the cat’s collar while it progresses through its normal activities at home. Ultimately the monitor might identify the improved activity that can be related to adequate pain control.

Decontamination of Household Textiles Exposed to Microsporum canis Spores; $5,363
Karen A. Moriello, DVM DACVD; University of Wisconsin‐Madison. W12‐034

Ringworm is a superficial fungal skin disease that affects all animals, including cats. In cats, the most commonly isolated pathogen is Microsporum canis. This disease is important because it is highly contagious to cats and transmitted to people making it a public health concern. Ringworm can infect any cat, but the most commonly infected are the most adoptable (kittens and young cats), old cats with other illnesses, and cats in animal shelters or rescue organizations. Treatment can be challenging because infected cats shed large amounts of infective material (spores and infected hairs) into the environment. Effective cleaning is necessary to prevent spore contamination of the environment and prevent cats from becoming re‐infected or “dust mop carriers”. There is no evidence‐based information available for household textiles‐fabric, clothing, carpeting, etc. The purpose of this study is to determine the efficacy of decontamination options for household textiles with a goal of identifying safe and effective practices.

Administration of Pimobendan to Cats with Chronic Kidney Disease; $20,000
Mary Anna Labato, DVM, DACVIM; Brandi R. Gallagher, DVM; John Rush DVM, MS, DACVECC, DVM; Tufts University College of Veterinary Medicine. W12‐039

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is one of the most common reasons geriatric cats present to the veterinarian. CKD is considered irreversible and progressive, and effective treatments are limited. A common co‐existing condition often appreciated in feline CKD patients is heart disease. Two of the investigators in this study have administered pimobendan to cats with combined kidney and heart disease. The patients had developed congestive heart failure (CHF) secondary to intravenous fluid administration, a typical standard of care for kidney disease. In some of these patients, addition of pimobendan resulted in a greater improvement in kidney values and clinical response. Tolerability and safety of this drug has already been established in cats with heart disease. This will be a pilot study to assess the tolerability of pimobendan in cats with CKD and search for benefits in comparison to the current standard of care. Investigating these observations in a larger study will help establish whether pimobendan could be a novel treatment for cats with CKD.

“Wool Sucking” Behaviour in Siamese and Birman Cats; $16,109
Nicholas Dodman, BVMS, DACVB; Edward Ginns, MD, PhD; Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. W12‐040

“Wool sucking” is a behavioral condition that involves the repetitive searching, suckling, chewing and ingestion of non‐food items. While items made of wool can be the preferred substrate, cats may also seek out and chew items made of cotton, rubber, nylon, paper, cardboard and plastic. A negative consequence of this behavior is breakdown of the human-animal bond due to owners’ frustration with property damage. In its most severe form, the cat cannot be maintained safely as an indoor cat. While wool sucking behavior can occur in any cat breed, the incidence is higher in oriental breeds, suggesting a genetic susceptibility. To identify potential genetic components of the compulsive “wool sucking” behavior in cats, DNA samples will be collected via saliva from normal and affected Siamese and Birman cats. Since “wool sucking” is an excellent animal model of human obsessive‐compulsive behaviors, the identification of a genetic cause could lead to development of carrier testing, as well as better treatment options for both cats and humans with these disorders.

Development and In Vitro Optimization of Hydrogels for the Delivery of FHV Specific siRNAs Encapsulated in Chitosan Nanoparticles; $17,785
Rebecca P. Wilkes, DVM, PhD; Scott Lenaghan, PhD; Christopher P. Stephens, MS, PhD; The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. W12‐042

Feline herpesvirus‐1 (FHV‐1) typically causes respiratory disease in cats; however, chronic recurrent infections can cause severe eye disease often leading to blindness. Currently there is no effective treatment for these chronic cases. Previous Winn funding has helped investigators design a therapeutic agent, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs), which uses the cell’s own machinery to inhibit viral replication through the targeting of essential herpesvirus genes. Investigators have developed a nanoparticle delivery vehicle composed of chitosan, a nontoxic substance to package these siRNAs for delivery into cells. The goal of this study is to develop a hydrogel, similar to a soft contact lens, for delivery of the nanoparticles. The hydrogel can be directly placed in the cat’s eye allowing successful drug uptake and provide extended continuous delivery of the FHV‐1 specific siRNAs into the cells. This study will potentially lead to development of a product suitable for use in cats’ eyes for treatment of FHV‐1.