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MaryDee Sist DVM
1629 Meech Road
Williamston, MI 48895


AKC/CHF Cardiology Symposium
October 6, 2008

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the American Kennel Club/Canine Health Foundation Cardiology Symposium, co-chaired by Drs. Meurs and Oyama, on October 6. Six breed representatives and 15 cardiologists from universities across the US and Canada attended.
In the morning sessions, the cardiologists gave presentations highlighting their research interests so their colleagues and breed representatives could be made aware of what they were currently working on. This is brief overview.

Many showed interest in biomarkers, such as the currently available assay for NT-proBNP which they felt are useful relatively late in the disease course. In my understanding, this test seems more useful for distinguishing lung from primary heart conditions when dogs are in respiratory distress, rather than predicting the kind or severity of heart damage. Dr. Green is looking at this and other neurohormonal markers in IW's with atrial fibrillation.

Most areas of research were molecular based. As an example, Dr. Bulmer is exploring the disease mechanisms in Mitral Valve disease (the most common heart condition found in our Saluki study). After death, he immediately collects the distal third of the mitral valve and freezes it in liquid nitrogen. Gels are made of the resulting matrix and these are analyzed for what proteins are under or over expressed in hopes of finding a possible etiology or genetic cause.

Discussions of cardiomyopathy were of interest to me. Dr. Cote' is exploring juvenile onset dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in toy Manchester Terriers. For background, he said that only 20-35% of DCM is thought to be hereditable in man. It is thought to be inherited as an autosomal dominant in IW, Dobermans and Newfoundlands while recessive in PWD. He is exploring the role of cytoskeletal and sarcomere proteins and their encoding genes. While these changes have been documented in man, so far, he says that no corresponding mutations have been found in dogs.
In the afternoon session, the CHF representative explained the procedures for applying for grants and the scientific review and selection process. This year, 72 pre-proposals were submitted. After the CHF confirms that the grant proposals concern a significant health issue for specific breeds, the investigators are asked to submit a full application of no longer than 25 pages. Forty full applications were reviewed and 10 were approved for funding to begin in 2009. Then it is up to each breed's Donor Advised Fund to financially support these approved grants. This process is for the larger grants (Oaks) that can be for a time period of up to 2 years. There are also smaller grants (less than 1 year and less than $12,000) that allow projects to be completed quickly to test research projects and generate preliminary data for future grant proposals. Twenty-eight of 70 applications for these "acorn" grants were funded by the CHF this year. It was stressed that the 6 month progress reports must be kept confidential. The final evaluation involves the impact of results, completion of aims and publication.

The closing session was a discussion on developing collaborative research programs and choosing a research focus. All the cardiologists brought up concerns over balancing teaching and clinical commitments with research and the lack of time. When asked about breed specific concerns, I explained that I routinely see cardiac examinations where cardiomyopathy was diagnosed on the basis of a large heart size and poor contractility, when this could be a breed-specific athletic hypertrophy or secondary changes due to valvular heart disease. The concern is that cardiologists vary in their interpretation of the test data. They responded that the cardiology group has been trying to come up with consensus on examination results, but this was a difficult goal.

This was a valuable symposium for me to attend even though it did not have a "practical" focus. I was able to interact with cardiologists from across the country and discuss the cardiac conditions that occur in Salukis and also to let them know that there is the possibility of support for research that would be of benefit to our Salukis.

MaryDee Sist, DVM

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