Spinal Injury Research in Dogs Could Help Humans
The New York Times recently reported on a new study (conducted by the University of California, San Francisco and Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine) focusing on spinal cord injuries in dachshunds. Dachshunds and other short-legged dogs are especially prone to a type of injury where a ruptured disk can cause spinal cord damage and possible loss of the use of their legs. It is especially common in dachshunds where one in five dogs suffer from the condition in their lifetime.
A new experimental drug is designed to block a protein that is produced after initial spinal cord trauma that can cause swelling and bleeding that results in further damage to the spinal cord. By blocking this protein, the drug can minimize the damage caused by the initial injury. The drug has already been shown to have success in mice and if the tests on the dogs produce similar results, there are plans to test it on humans. One drawback to the drug is that its effectiveness has only been proven when taken three hours after the initial injury occurred. Tests for drugs to be taken six or twelve hours later are forthcoming.
This is the latest in a number of clinical trials that have helped both dogs and humans. Many pet dogs have participated in experimental trials that have led to disease and injury treatments that have gone on to benefit the canine and human communities. While many diseases are species-specific, others, such as many forms of cancer, can be studied in both dogs and humans, since the genetic profiles are similar enough (much closer than humans and mice, for example). In fact several common radiation and chemotherapy cancer treatments used for humans today started out as experimental trials for dogs suffering from cancer. The Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium has conducted numbers of studies involving dogs, and developed the first FDA-approved cancer drug for dogs, Palladia, which led to a similar drug, Sutent, used in humans.
The clinical trials have become a godsend to pet owners with sick pets, as the trials usually cover all the medical costs, where treatment might have been prohibitively expensive. They also provide hope for dogs when all traditional treatment options have been exhausted. It’s a win-win for dogs and humans. Dogs receive much-needed treatment and both dogs and humans benefit from the research findings. Another case of dogs being man’s best friend—in sickness and in health.