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Morris Animal Foundation Supports CVM Researchers with $111,966

Posted April 20, 2011

Morris Animal Foundation Supports CVM Researchers with $111,966

Morris Animal Foundation recently awarded over $100,000 to two principal investigators at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) to further their research on the advancements of animal health. Dr. Heather Wilson, assistant professor at the CVM, was awarded $47,749 over the period of two years for her work on the Evaluation of Cycoplamine as Therapy for Canine Bone Cancer. Dr. Noah Cohen, professor at the CVM, was awarded $64,217 over the period of two years for his research on Recognizing Age-related Differences in Immune Response of Foals.

Wilson's research highlights the need to study cancer initiating cells, otherwise known as cancer stem cells, in dogs as bone cancer is prevalent in canines and the disease is genetically identical to humans. Wilson's research hopes to identify and isolate the tumor initiating cells and eradicate them using drug therapy in dogs. Up to this point there has been little research in veterinary medicine regarding cancer stem cells. Wilson's team consists of Sabina Sheppard, research assistant at the CVM, and Dr. Catherine Pfent, anatomic pathology resident at the CVM.

"Our research methods can best be described by the beehive metaphor," explains Wilson. "The cancer stem cell is the queen bee and her drones are similar to the regular cancer cells. Without the presence of the queen bee the hive does not prosper, and will eventually die off. Our hopes are to find a way to target the cancer stem cells so the cancer does not succeed."

Cohen's research focuses on why neutrophils, major white blood cells, of newborn foals are less capable of functioning than neutrophils of older foals. Neutrophils play a critical role in protecting newborns against invading bacteria; bacterial infections are leading causes of disease and death in foals. Cohen and his research team are working to decipher which genes and their regulatory elements might explain the difference between the function of neutrophils of newborn and older foals. Dr. Scott Dindot, assistant professor at the CVM, Kyle Kuskie, veterinary technician at the CVM, and Dr. Jessica Nerren, associate research scientist at the CVM are collaborators on this project. Cohen, Noah 4x5

"We hope to be able to better understand which biological pathways and cellular processes reduce the function of foal neutrophils so that we can devise means to improve their immunity at birth. This information will help us to better protect them against the bacterial infections that are their leading causes of disease and death," says Cohen. "The Equine Infectious Disease Laboratory at Texas A&M University is dedicated to control and prevention of infectious disease of horses and foals, and this grant will help us to continue that goal."  Moreover, the findings of this study likely will be relevant to neonates of other species (including human beings).

Morris Animal Foundation helps to support research to prevent, diagnose, treat, and even cure diseases in companion animals, horses, and wildlife. Recipients of the awards are selected through a rigorous review process carried out by Morris Animal Foundation's scientific advisory boards. Since 1973, Morris Animal foundation has funded 67 studies at Texas A&M.


Contact Information:
Angela G. Clendenin
Director, Communications & Public Relations
Ofc - (979) 862-2675
Cell - (979) 739-5718

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