Ensuring dogs lead the longest, happiest lives possible is the driving force behind a new osteoarthritis (OA) treatment being explored at the Colorado State University (CSU).
Morris Animal Foundation-funded researchers at CSU and the University of North Carolina are looking at gene therapy as a new method for treating dogs inflicted with the debilitating disease.
“We may not be able to cure arthritis or turn back time, but gene therapy holds real promise to give dogs with this disease much needed relief,” says the foundation’s chief scientific officer, Janet Patterson-Kane, BVSc, PhD, FRCVS. “If it we can provide long-term support to joints by slowing or even reversing progression of osteoarthritis with a simple injection, that would be fantastic.”
Gene therapy effectively reprograms cells already present in the body through the transfer of genes, Morris Animal Foundation says. For this project, researchers will begin by manipulating viruses, making it so they are still able to invade cells, but no longer cause disease. These viruses will then be used to transport a desired substance.
The biotechnology has been successful in the treatment of OA-inflicted horses, with scientists using a modified adeno-associated virus (AAV) to deliver a segment of DNA coded for the protein interleukin 10 (IL-10), a substance produced within bodies that has potent anti-inflammatory properties. Because the joints of horses and dogs are similar biologically, researchers believe the approach will also work for canine patients once the best viral vector is determined.
OA is a chronic, progressive joint condition, affecting approximately 14 million adult dogs in the U.S. alone. In addition to limiting mobility and negatively impacting quality of life, OA is among the leading causes of euthanasia in dogs, according to Morris Animal Foundation.
“We need a treatment that stops the progression of osteoarthritis; that decreases the long-term inflammation in the joints,” says Felix Duerr, DVM, MS, DACVS-SA, DECVS, DACVSMR, assistant professor of small animal orthopedics and sports medicine at CSU. “Current treatments to control the pain fall short and often have complications, so if we can develop a minimally invasive method to successfully just treat that pain, that will be a win.”
If successful with preliminary findings, the team will move on to a small safety study in dogs with osteoarthritis and then a larger clinical trial to test the efficacy, Morris Animal Foundation says.