Current research in gastrointestinal, dental and endocrine diseases

 

Owner cuddling her pet at the veterinary clinic and doctor working in the background

Investigating the role of thymosin beta 10 in feline chronic kidney disease

PhD studentship (partial funding): £80,000 awarded in 2024

Institution: RVC

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) in cats is extremely common, and is the most frequent cause of death in cats over five years of age. Thymosin beta 10 (TB10) levels are elevated with kidney disease progression in cats, but its role in feline CKD is unknown. This PhD studentship will evaluate the utility of TB10 as a biomarker of CKD progression and elucidate its function in disease pathophysiology.

Read more and apply for this as a postgraduate student.

 

Test tubes in a lab with animal blood samples

Blood adipokine and ghrelin concentrations in cats with chronically treated diabetes mellitus and with diabetes and hypersomatotropism undergoing hypophysectomy

Clinical Research Project Grant (joint-funded with the Small Animal Medicine Society): £9,940 awarded in 2023

Institution: RVC

Cats undergoing pituitary gland excision for diseases such as acromegaly or hypersomatotropism often become obese. This study aims to understand the cause of this weight gain which may reflect changes in hormone levels, and could lead to the development of targeted treatment and the prevention of obesity and insulin resistance.

 

Assessing the effect of D-mannose on clinical outcome and microbiota composition in canine chronic inflammatory enteropathy

Clinical Research Project Grant: £9,409.36 awarded in 2022

Institution: University of Edinburgh

Chronic inflammatory enteropathy in dogs is difficult to treat as gut microbial dysbiosis is likely. Mannose has unique properties in binding specific bacteria in the gut before they can contribute to gut inflammation, and could be an easy and cheap way to help regulate dysbiosis long-term. This study will investigate whether mannose is an effective treatment for canine chronic inflammatory enteropathy, and examine its effect on the microbiota composition.

 


 

Past research in this area

 

Feasibility of using a point-of-care analyser for faecal calprotectin to differentiate different intestinal disease in cats

Student Research Project Grant: £2890 awarded in 2022

Institution: University of Edinburgh

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and lymphoma are the two most common chronic conditions in the feline gut, yet their diagnosis is complex and often requires invasive tests like intestinal biopsies. Faecal calprotectin (fCal) is commonly used in people and, more recently, in dogs with IBD as a marker of intestinal inflammation. Preliminary data suggest that it can also be used in cats, and can be measured with a point-of-care analyser, which facilitates real-time decision making in a clinical setting. This undergraduate project assessed the performance of a fCAL point-of-care analyser to differentiate cats with intestinal diseases from healthy cats.

The fCAL detection threshold of the point-of-care analyser was insufficient to produce readings, even at higher sample loading volumes, so could not be used to differentiate between cats with and without disease.

Findings were presented as an abstract at BSAVA Congress 2023, which can be freely accessed here.

 

The characterisation and clinical significance of intestinal fibrosis in cats with chronic inflammatory enteropathy

Master’s Degree by Research Grant: £40,000 awarded in 2021

Institution: RVC

Feline chronic inflammatory enteropathy is a debilitating disease, which can ultimately result in euthanasia. Its exact cause is unknown and therefore treatment is a sequential or combination approach with diet, antibiotics and immunosuppressive medication depending on the severity of signs. Although fibrosis is routinely reported in intestinal biopsies from cats with chronic inflammatory enteropathy, its clinical significance is unknown so was explored in this master’s degree.

Sixty-five cats with chronic inflammatory enteropathy were included in the study, with follow-up information available for 54 cats (83%). Of these, 37% (n=20) were euthanised due to gastrointestinal disease and 46% (n=25) were alive and in clinical remission, with 64% (n=16) of these diagnosed with food-responsive enteropathy. Intestinal biopsy specimens from these cats were stained with Masson’s trichrome stain and antivimentin and anticollagen I antibodies to identify intestinal fibrosis. Mucosal fibrosis was identified in 51% of duodenal and 76% of colonic hematoxylin and eosin-stained specimens. Vimentin labeling and Masson’s trichome staining identified additional cases of intestinal fibrosis in 65% and 58% of the duodenal biopsy specimens, respectively. Vimentin labeling detected intestinal fibrosis in 79% of the colonic biopsy specimens. Positive vimentin labeling and Masson’s trichrome staining of the colonic mucosa were associated with a decreased likelihood of attaining clinical remission and increased risk of death because of chronic inflammatory enteropathy (p < 0.05). These findings suggest that additional staining at biopsy allow for better identification of intestinal fibrosis and prognostic information compared to routine hematoxylin and eosin staining. These findings are published in the April 2023 issue of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

The study found no correlation between the tested clini­copathological variables, measured at the time of histopathological diag­nosis, and death due to gastrointestinal disease, or length of survival in these cats before death due to gastrointestinal disease. However, achieving clinical remission reduced the likelihood of subsequent death due to gastrointestinal disease. These findings are published in the March 2023 issue of the Journal of Small Animal Practice. Our press release about the work can be read here.

 

An investigation of novel immunohistochemical markers and serum auto-antibodies in cats with chronic biliary tract disease

Master’s Degree by Research Grant: £34,844 awarded in 2020

Institution: University of Cambridge

Diseases of the bile ducts in cats are common but poorly understood: the causes are unknown and there is no universally effective treatment. Some cases may be due to the cat’s immune system attacking its own liver (autoimmune liver disease) but this has not been proven. This master’s degree aimed to improve our understanding and categorization of feline chronic liver disease by measuring serum autoantibodies in affected cats and correlating these with histopathology and immunochemistry findings.

Seven of the 34 cats analysed had serum autoantibodies that were detectable using indirect immunofluorescence and a species-specific substrate. This could allude to an immune-mediated aetiology and also the existence of multiple disease syndromes within the classically histologically-defined cholangitis/cholangiohepatitis complex in cats.