Deceased therapy dog passes on genes, 16 years later


Losing a beloved pet is never easy. We oftentimes ponder how lovely it would be to see our pet again, and reminisce on photos and videos that remind us of our love for them.

But some pet owners, such as Jennifer and Steve Trotta, take it one step further by cryopreserving the animal’s eggs or semen while they’re still alive.

Quincy, the Trottas’ Golden retriever, had some of his semen frozen 16 years ago at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center before he passed away, as the Trottas knew they would want to pass on his genes in the future to preserve his legacy.

Quincy -a field golden- was a comfort dog for 10 years at a nursing home where Steve used to work. Quincy had full run of the building, Steve said, so that he could engage residents with his kind and gentle demeanor. His presence allowed people to experience some of the proven benefits of Animal-Assisted Therapy (AAT) such as lower stress, anxiety and an overall improved mood, among many others. People at the nursing home loved him, Steve said, and one resident even ended up painting a portrait of him.

Since Quincy passed away at age 14, the Trottas have been looking for the perfect female dog to breed with his DNA. Unfortunately, their first female failed to pass the rigorous health screening required for responsible breeding of healthy Golden retrievers, and the Trottas were forced to wait even longer for the perfect match.

Then they found Halle, a 3-½ -year-old Golden retriever and comfort dog. Steve said he plans to employ her compassionate temperament for AAT just like Quincy. After going through some training, Halle recently brought smiles to disabled children and adults at Carleton School in Syracuse, Ohio.

Halle was artificially inseminated with Quincy’s semen in February, and was confirmed pregnant on March 22.

“The success rate of breeding with frozen semen is about 50-50,” said Dr. Erin Runcan, assistant clinical professor of theriogenology/reproductive medicine and the specialist who worked with the Trottas. “We increased our chances with Halle by using two doses of frozen semen instead of just one.”

These types of procedures are done frequently by the theriogenology service at the VMC, she said, adding that another reason that pet owners will have semen frozen is to send it overseas for breeding in other countries, or to other states when the male might not be available for breeding.

Halle successfully gave birth to three puppies -two females and one male- who were welcomed into the world on April 25.

“We’re keeping two of the puppies, and giving the other to my brother-in-law,” Steve said. “But there was a long line of family and friends hoping to get one of Quincy’s offspring.”

The Trottas live in Athens, Ohio. Steve is a physical therapist at Ohio University Therapy Associates and Jennifer is an intervention specialist at Beacon School. The couple has regularly taken in rescued golden retrievers, two of which currently live with them and Halle.

“It’s a happy ending, and it’s exciting that we were the ones that froze the semen so long ago and that we were able to breed her and get a successful litter,” Runcan said. “We applaud the Trottas on their dedication to the health of the Golden Retriever breed, and wish them all the luck with their new family members.”


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Veterinarians give years of life to chow with oral cancer

When Linda and Patrick Henthorne took their chow, Tory, into a routine dental checkup in 2012, they didn’t expect to find out that she had oral melanoma.

Before the checkup the Henthornes suspected something may be wrong, since Tory’s breath had been abnormally strong, but they didn’t foresee such bad news. Tory, the Henthornes only pet, was 5 years old at the time.

Because melanoma is a cancer of the pigment-producing cells of the body (melanocytes), canine oral melanoma is more common in dogs with darkly pigmented gums, cheeks and tongues. These breeds include chows, poodles, dachshunds, Scottish terriers and golden retrievers, among others. Aside from foul breath, other symptoms a dog with oral melanoma may exhibit include:

  • Increased salivation
  • Facial swelling
  • Bleeding in the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing, and
  • Weight loss

The next step for the Henthornes was to take Tory to The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine to have her evaluated. After confirmation of the cancer, Tory soon underwent surgery, performed by Drs. Lillian Su and Christopher Adin.

The procedure was successful in removing the cancer from the back, left-side of Tory’s tongue as well as a lymph node on the same side. Over the next several months she had four radiation treatments, and shortly after her cancer went into remission.

“Tory had frequent check-ups and after six months, the vets didn’t see anything recurring in her mouth or lungs,” Linda Henthorne said. “We weren’t sure we were out of the woods, but they weren’t seeing any changes that would indicate otherwise.”


Luckily, treatment options for Tory didn’t stop there. In 2010, a human DNA-based vaccine for canine oral melanoma was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. This vaccine, a form of immunotherapy, uses the body’s own immune system to control the growth of tumors. It contains the human DNA sequence encoding an enzyme called tyrosinase, which is critical to the survival of melanocytes. The dog’s immune system sees the human tyrosinase as foreign, triggering it to recognize the tyrosinase present in cancer cells as foreign. The body responds by destroying the human tyrosinase as well as the tyrosinase present in cancerous melanocytes, rendering them incapable of surviving. Tory received this vaccine every two weeks for several months.

Unfortunately Tory started to lose functionality of her tongue last year, Linda said, adding that they have been hand-feeding her to make sure that she gets enough food. The Henthornes also administer subcutaneous fluids to Tory twice a week, since she has a hard time drinking water, but daily snacks of Knox gelatin help keep her hydrated. Veterinarians think the loss of tongue functionality is due to delayed radiation effects.

Overall, Linda Henthorne is very pleased with what veterinarians at Ohio State has been able to do for Tory, as her quality of life remains high.

“They did a great job; it saved her life,” Linda said. Her statement is no exaggeration considering that on average, even the mildest stage of oral melanoma – if left untreated – will take the life of a dog within a year. “They gave us as much information as we possibly could have consumed during the process, and were happy to meet and talk with us as we needed.”

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Thanks to dialysis, Phoebe the cat survives lily poisoning

DSC_7465When Phoebe, a 23-month-old cat from Missouri, took a few nibbles of a lily plant, her owners didn’t think a thing. Unfortunately neither Phoebe nor her owners were aware of the dire consequences that would ensue.

Lilies are highly toxic to cats when ingested, and if not treated immediately can be fatal in as little as 72 hours. Lily poisoning, particularly from plants of the Lilium or Hemerocallis genera, causes rapid kidney failure.

Once Phoebe’s owners, Michael and Christina Weller, noticed how sick their cat was acting, they took her to their local veterinarian, who referred them to the University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center. This is where they were informed that because kidney failure had progressed (despite rigorous treatment), the only hope for Phoebe would be dialysis.

Even with dialysis, there was only a 50 percent chance of saving her, the Wellers were told.

To top it off, the closest veterinary hospital that offered dialysis treatment was eight hours away, at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center. This didn’t stop the Wellers, who immediately drove Phoebe to Ohio overnight.

Only 22 veterinary hospitals in the U.S. and 40 worldwide offer dialysis services said Dr. Catherine Langston, associate professor, service head of small animal internal medicine and the veterinarian who administered Phoebe’s dialysis.

When the Wellers first arrived at Ohio State on Jan. 18, a blood test revealed that Phoebe’s creatinine levels – an important indicator of kidney health – were at 14 mg/dL, which is 10 times higher than it should have been, according to Dr. Langston.

First, Phoebe got a blood transfusion. She was quickly placed on dialysis a day later, and the results were immediate. After a total of two dialysis treatments and a week of recovery, her creatinine levels were back at 3 mg/dL and slowly leveling out.

Phoebe was taken back home on Feb. 1, and is expected to live a long and healthy life.

“She’s basically back to her normal self,” Christina Weller said.

It’s unfortunate that lilies are common houseplants, and are often included in various floral arrangements without identification. It should also be noted that the entire plant is toxic to cats, including petals, stamen, leaves and pollen.

Original story

Cystic Fibrosis research could change how patients are treated

Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator, rendering based on 1xmi.

Cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator, rendering based on 1xmi.

Dr. Estelle Cormet-Boyaka, associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Biosciences, and Dr. Amal Amer, an associate professor at the College of Medicine, have received a $2.55 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for their research on Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

An estimated 30,000 people in the U.S. are living with CF, a fatal genetic disease, according to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation patient registry.

CF can affect multiple parts of the body, but primarily impairs lung function. The lungs in a person with CF are colonized with bacteria from a young age due to poor mucus clearance, which results in chronic inflammation. This makes them susceptible to various bacterial infections, which if unchecked can cause severe, life-threatening symptoms.

Drs. Cormet-Boyaka and Amer are amid the first researchers to look at the behavior of CF innate immune cells, and they were able to identify several problems occurring within the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) chloride channel. This is a protein that transports ions across the membrane of cells, and its malfunction affects production of mucus, sweat, saliva, tears and digestive enzymes. The problem can be traced back to mutations in the CFTR gene.

Specifically, they found that macrophages – a type of white blood cell that disassembles cellular debris such as foreign substances or infectious cells through a process called autophagy – do not work properly in CF patients.

“Instead of the macrophages devouring the bug by performing autophagy, the macrophages replicate and provide an environment for the bug to live instead,” Dr. Amer said in a story by the College of Medicine. “So while you can keep providing treatment and antibiotics, it will just keep hiding there.”

Since current methods of care for CF are centered on treating the symptoms of infection and not the cause, this knowledge is a crucial breakthrough.

Drs. Cormet-Boyaka and Amer’s research will continue to examine these complex cellular pathways, and look at potential therapeutic targets for CF patients.

The two researchers also received a $1.5 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute for this research in September 2015.

Original story

Veterinarians receive grant to develop RSV vaccine

A microscopic view of a cotton rat lung infected with respiratory syncytial virus (infected cells shown in brown)

A microscopic view of a cotton rat lung infected with respiratory syncytial virus (infected cells shown in brown)

Drs. Stefan Niewiesk, Jianrong Li and Krista La Perle, all faculty members at the College of Veterinary Medicine, are working with researchers from the Center for Vaccines and Immunity at Nationwide Children’s Hospital to develop a vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This is possible due to a $6.75 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

RSV is one of the most common causes of lower respiratory tract infections in human infants, with 3.4 million cases annually leading to hospitalization in children under 5, according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine. Currently, there is no RSV vaccine available. Studies have shown that RSV both evades and supresses the body’s immune response, and severe cases can lead to fatality.

The team’s end goal is to create an effective RSV vaccine that can be given as nose drops to infants. This will be achieved by weakening the virus while increasing its ability to stimulate a protective immune response. The expertise of the faculty of the College of Veterinary Medicine lies in the ability to genetically modify the virus and to evaluate the immune response to the vaccine and its safety in an in vivo cotton rat model.

The principal investigators of this study are Drs. Mark Peeples and Octavio Ramilo, both professors at Ohio State’s College of Medicine and researchers at the Center for Vaccines and Immunity at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

“We are attacking the problem on multiple fronts, and using new approaches to attenuate the virus,” Dr. Peeples said.

A successful outcome means the vaccine will save the lives of infants and children worldwide, preventing over 57,000 hospitalizations and over 2 million medical visits for infants and children each year.

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Wu research team works to combat HIV/AIDS epidemic

Dr. Li Wu, professor in the Department of Veterinary Biosciences and in the Center for Microbial Interface Biology at the Wexner Medical Center, and his research team are dedicated to developing more effective strategies to combat HIV infection. Their research is partially supported by a three-year grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 (in green) budding from cultured lymphocyte. Multiple round bumps on cell surface represent sites of assembly and budding of virions.

Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 (in green) budding from cultured lymphocyte. Multiple round bumps on cell surface represent sites of assembly and budding of virions.

HIV and TB infections are the world’s most fatal infectious diseases, according to the World Health Organization. Across the globe, nearly 37 million people are currently living with HIV and in 2014, 1.2 million people died from AIDS-related illnesses. About 5,500 people contract HIV infection each day, but HIV basic research holds promise in eradicating this devastating disease.

The NIH’s $600,000 grant will allow Wu and his team, which includes collaborators in China, to gather new information on the cellular and viral processes that underlie HIV’s complex routes of transmission and replication. They will specifically focus on identifying currently unknown mechanisms that control HIV latency, which researchers have deemed “the most challenging question in HIV research.”

WuResearchTeamSince 2006, Dr. Wu has been awarded seven NIH research grants (three R01 and four R21 grants) totaling $5.22 million to support his work on HIV and cancer. Six of these grants went toward HIV basic research, and have allowed Wu and his collaborators to publish more than 50 peer-reviewed manuscripts on their findings. He has been frequently invited to NIH study sections and international foundations to evaluate grant proposals from other researchers, and he presents his research at conferences around the world.

Dr. Wu was the recipient of the 2015 Charles C. Capen Teaching Award for Graduate Education, which is given to one faculty member from the College of Veterinary Medicine per year, as well as the 2013 Zoetis Excellence in Research Award. He leads courses in the Comparative and Veterinary Medicine graduate program as well as graduate programs in Ohio State’s other health sciences colleges. These courses center on molecular genetics, molecular virology and the pathogenesis of viruses and immunology, and he consistently receives high praise for his scientific expertise and effective teaching from students and other instructors.

Original story

Alumnus part of leading genomics team at Nationwide Children’s Hospital

A team from The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital was recently announced the winner of the 2015 CLARITY Undiagnosed Challenge, a global crowd-sourcing competition in which medical teams employ genomics to solve featured medical cases. The goal was to decipher DNA sequences and provide information to five families whose genetic conditions have continuously eluded diagnosis.

From left: Catherine Brownstein, the Director of the Molecular Genomics Core Facility at Boston Children's Hospital; Donald Corsmeier, postdoctoral research scientist at Nationwide Children's Biomedical Genomics Core; Dr. Peter White, director of Nationwide Children's Biomedical Genomics Core; Alan Beggs, director of The Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research at Boston Children's Hospital.

From left: Catherine Brownstein, director of the Molecular Genomics Core at Boston Children’s Hospital; Donald Corsmeier, researcher at Nationwide Children’s Biomedical Genomics Core; Dr. Peter White, director of Nationwide Children’s Biomedical Genomics Core; Alan Beggs, director of The Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research at Boston Children’s Hospital.

The winning team from Nationwide Children’s Hospital comprised genomic researchers, bioinformaticians, big data informatics experts, genetic counselors, medical geneticists and clinicians, and included 2012 graduate of Ohio State’s College of Veterinary Medicine Dr. Don Corsmeier, a postdoctoral research scientist at Nationwide Children’s Biomedical Genomics Core. 26 teams from seven countries entered the competition.

One advantage the team had is expertise in a software developed by the hospital named Churchill, which was officialy released in January. This advanced technology allows for the speedy analysis of human genomes for disease-causing gene variations. Churchill can perform a complete analysis in as little as 90 minutes, a huge improvement considering the first human genome took 13 years to sequence. More than 400 academic research centers are now utilizing the software.

No major breakthroughs were made in the challenge, but several families received confirmation about previous genetic findings, according to a press release from Boston Children’s Hospital. A few genetic variants were identified for potential further research.

“Genomic medicine is a quickly evolving frontier for health care,” said Dr. Steve Allen, CEO of Nationwide Children’s Hospital. “Nationwide Children’s is setting the standard for how genome sequencing and analysis can be utilized to transform care for patients and families around the world.”

The second-ever CLARITY (Children’s Leadership Award for the Reliable Interpretation and Appropriate Transmission of Your Genomic Information) challenge was hosted by the Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Department of Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School. The results were announced on Nov. 10 at the Global Pediatric Innovation Summit + Awards.

“The patients in this Challenge were the toughest of the tough,” said co-organizer of the challenge Dr. Alan Beggs. “In general, when patients with genetic conditions have their genomes sequenced, about two thirds of those cases don’t get solved…Genomic sequencing is still a new area, but as we gain more experience with these tough cases, we can build a database and begin to see patterns emerging.”

Original story

Health problems, risks identified for critically endangered black rhinos

The health issues of captive black rhinoceros aren’t too far off from human health problems, a recently published study reveals. According to its findings, captive black rhinos are at a much higher risk for metabolic conditions such as inflammation and insulin resistance than rhinos that live in the wild.

The study, published in General and Comparative Endocrinology, was authored by Dr. Pam Dennis, clinical assistant professor in Veterinary Preventive Medicine, and veterinary epidemiologist at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo along with her research team. They analyzed blood samples from 86 captive rhinos and 120 wild rhinos, and in all cases the captive animals’ blood had more markers for disease.

The species is critically endangered, according to the World Wildlife Foundation, with a global population of 4,848. Helping black rhinos in zoos to live longer, and develop metabolic conditions less frequently, would be one conservation effort. Another is to stop the illegal poaching and trade of rhino horn, which is the species’ greatest threat. Between 1970 and 1992, 96 percent of Africa’s black rhinos were killed, according to the World Wildlife Foundation.


Adult black rhinoceros female and calf in Etosha National Park.

“We are providing good, nutritious, high-quality food. And we may be overdoing it. We’re just learning that providing high-quality food in excess can cause problems,” Dennis said. “Knowing what we know now, how do we manage these animals in zoos in ways that decrease health risks? I think we’re going to have to manage their nutrition differently.”

In 2012, the college created a residency program for Conservation Medicine and Ecosystem Health through a partnership with the Wilds and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, allowing students to explore the intersections of animal health, environmental health and human health. The program is led by Dr. Barbara Wolfe, associate professor of Veterinary Preventive Medicine. Wolfe also co-authored the black rhino study.

Additional co-authors are Mandi Schook, associate research curator at Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, David Wildt of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Mary Ann Raghanti of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and Kent State University. The research was supported by the Morris Animal Foundation, a Philip D. Reed Jr. Fellowship, Conservation Centers for Species Survival and Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.

Read the university’s news story on the study here. This story was also featured in Daily Mail, UKclick here to read.

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