2011 Miller Trust Grant Awards
November 17, 2011 (published)
Winn Feline Health Foundation

EveryCat Health Foundation
(formerly Winn Feline Health Foundation)

George Sydney and Phyllis Redman Miller Trust
Funded for a total of $102,887

The Winn Feline Foundation is pleased to announce the award of six feline medical research grants funded in partnership with the George Sydney and Phyllis Redman Miller Trust in 2011. Winn President Vicki Thayer, DVM, commented, “We are excited about the proposals that have received funding. This year we awarded $102,887 in grants for studies on stem cell therapy for inflammatory bowel disease and asthma, cancer therapy, FIP, pain management, and a safe imaging and oxygen delivery chamber for cats.”

Grants were awarded for the following research studies.

Allogeneic Adipose-derived Mesenchymal Stromal Cell Therapy for Cats with Inflammatory Bowel Disease; $14,124
Craig B. Webb, PhD, DVM, DACVIM; Tracy L. Webb, DVM, PhD; Colorado State University. MT 11-001

The most common cause of chronic diarrhea in cats is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). This condition is thought to be the result of a disruption in the normal function of intestinal tract cells and the immune system. Additionally, these cells interact with dietary constituents and organisms in the lumen of the digestive tract, resulting in chronic inflammation and poor intestinal function. This leads to persistent diarrhea, often accompanied by weight loss, vomiting, and decreased appetite. Owners of these unfortunate cats are often asked to give multiple medications to their pets on a daily basis. This situation may persist for the life of the pet, and sometimes diarrhea control is inadequate. The quality of life of both pet and owner is significantly affected. A form of stem cell therapy known as mesenchymal stromal cells (MSC) has come to the forefront in recent years as a potential therapeutic option for chronic inflammatory diseases. This cell therapy helps correct abnormalities in the immune system that leads to this inflammation. Previous research in this laboratory has shown that feline adipose-derived MSC (fMSC) can be easily generated in large quantities from a small amount of adult tissue, such as adipose or fat, and then safely administered back to diseased cats with no notable side effects. This study proposes to evaluate the use of adipose-derived fMSC as a treatment for feline IBD.

Mesenchymal Stem Cells as a Novel Treatment for Feline Asthma: Evaluation of Efficacy and Mechanism of Immunomodulation; $24,565.76
Carol R. Reinero, DVM, PhD, DACVIM, Associate Professor; Amy E. DeClue, DVM, DACVIM, Assistant Professor; University of Missouri. MT 11-002

Asthma is a common breathing disorder in cats, decreasing quality of life and sometimes causing death. Asthma is currently managed using corticosteroids, a treatment involving unpleasant side effects. Corticosteroids cannot be used in cats with concurrent diseases such as diabetes. Importantly, they only suppress inflammation and do nothing to reverse the underlying abnormal immune response which triggers the asthmatic syndrome. Thus, there is a need for safe and effective treatments for feline asthma. Stem cell therapy using mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) from bone marrow or adipose tissues is showing tremendous promise for a variety of diseases. Because the majority of stem cells injected into the bloodstream actually end up in the lungs, the use of stem cells for treating disorders of the lung shows promise. At least 4 studies in rodent models of asthma published in the past year have shown that i.v. injection of mesenchymal stems cells (MSC) can significantly reduce airway inflammation and airway hyperreactivity. In addition, the collaborators on this project at CSU have considerable prior experience with intravenous injection of MSC for treatment of feline chronic kidney disease. This study proposes to evaluate MSC therapy as a novel treatment for feline asthma.

Pilot Study of Metformin for the Treatment of Feline Cancer; $15,775
Jackie Wypij, DVM, MS, DACVIM (Oncology), Assistant Professor; University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. MT 11-003

Metformin is a safe, effective, and inexpensive oral drug used in people with diabetes. The drug reduces cancer risk by nearly one-third and has anti-cancer effects against human cancer cells. Although ineffective for feline diabetes, metformin is well tolerated in cats. Cancer is a leading cause of death and sickness in geriatric cats, and there are limited effective treatments. Common tumors such as feline oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), lymphoma, and mammary carcinoma often lead to death within just a few months. Human cancers with known or potential metformin sensitivity (breast carcinoma, leukemia, head and neck SCC) are biologically similar to common feline cancers (mammary carcinoma, lymphoma, feline OSCC). Preliminary data demonstrates anti- cancer effects of metformin in feline cell lines. These reasons establish metformin as a promising candidate drug therapy for cats suffering from cancer. The purpose of this clinical study is to determine the optimal dose, toxicity, pharmacology, and potential efficacy of metformin therapy in pet cats with cancer and to evaluate non-invasive biomarkers of metformin biologic activity.

Assessment of the Safety and Clinical Utility of a Cat Imaging Tube and Oxygen Chamber; $11,408.24
Alex zur Linden, BSc, DVM; Richard T. Stone, BS, MS, PhD; Iowa State University. MT 11-005

The purpose of this project is to assemble a device that will accommodate an un-sedated cat for chest x-rays and/or a computed tomography (CT or CAT) scan. The device will maintain a stable environment of temperature, humidity and enriched oxygen, while removing carbon dioxide exhaled from the patient. The device will contain equipment for the continuous monitoring of the internal environment. A cat arriving at a veterinary hospital with labored breathing (caused by heart disease, lung disease, or other diseases of the chest) can be placed into the device immediately to avoid restraint, as well as provide oxygen and a quiet environment. The portability of the device will allow easy transport of the cat to radiology for chest x-rays or a CT scan without removing the cat from the tube. This lack of manual restraint during a severe respiratory crisis will improve patient survival, as handling these cats can result in their death. Efficient safe imaging should reduce patient suffering and guide the appropriate next test or treatment. A similar tube with no built-in monitoring equipment has already been designed and used for CT scans only (VetMouseTrap™). However, this tube is a less durable design and can safely house a cat for only a limited amount of time. The benefits of the proposed tube are a decrease in the amount of physical contact with a patient, allowing x-ray imaging without manual restraint, and providing a well- controlled environment that can accommodate a cat for prolonged periods of time.

Effectiveness of Small Interfering RNA (siRNA) to Inhibit Feline Coronavirus Replication; $23,600
Rebecca P. Wilkes, DVM, PhD, Assistant Professor; Eman Anis, BS, MS; Alfred Legendre, MS, DVM, Professor; Stephen Kania, BS, MS, PhD; The University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. MT 11-007

Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) is a fatal disease in cats. The disease results from widespread viral replication in affected animals and an inadequate and harmful immune response to the virus. Currently, there is no effective treatment for this disease. Though therapies aimed at improving the immune response to this virus have shown some benefit, there is a need for an additional therapy to specifically inhibit virus growth in order to effect a successful treatment. Recently, RNA interference has been shown to be useful for treating virus infections. This antiviral mechanism results from the introduction of double stranded RNA into cells that specifically target the virus and thus lead to its destruction. This strategy has been used successfully experimentally to treat Severe Acute Respiratory Disease (SARS), a virus that produces a disease similar to FIP in humans. In addition, this strategy has been shown to be effective against a feline virus, feline herpes virus. It is hoped that suppression of viral infection, combined with a treatment to improve the immune response against FIP, will provide a successful treatment, if not a cure, for FIP.

Dexmedetomidine for Antinociception in Cats: a Pharmacokinetic-pharmacodynamic Study; $13,414
Bruno H Pypendop, DVM, DrVetSci, DACVA, Professor; Jan E Ilkiw, Bs, PhD, DECVA, Professor; School of Veterinary Medicine University of California-Davis. MT 11-014

Options to treat pain in cats include the use of opioids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, local anesthetics, and agonists (chemicals which cause activation) of the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors. The effects of the latter drugs on pain have not been well characterized in cats. This study proposes to determine the effects of an alpha-2 adrenergic agonist, dexmedetomidine, on pain in cats. Researchers will study the relationship between plasma concentration and analgesic effect, at the same time as they will determine the disposition of the drug by the body. Knowledge of this disposition and of the concentration-effect relationship will allow the researchers to determine optimal dosage of dexmedetomidine for the treatment of pain in clinical feline patients.

The Winn Feline Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 1968 that supports studies to improve cat health. Since 1968, the Winn Feline Foundation has funded over $3 million in health research for cats at more than 30 partner institutions world-wide. This funding is made possible through the support of dedicated donors and partners. Research supported by the Winn Feline Foundation helps veterinarians to improve treatment of common feline health problems and prevent many diseases. Grants are awarded twice yearly with the help of the foundation’s expert review panel. For further information, go to www.winnfelinehealth.org