Chronic kidney disease, the most common feline kidney disease, is especially prevalent in older cats. Although a variety of factors have been identified that may predispose a cat to kidney disease, in many cases the underlying cause is unknown. While treatment can help control symptoms for a period of time, there is no cure. Dr. Jessica Quimby, a doctoral student in the Department of Clinical Sciences, is hoping that new research funds will help her find some answers that may one day lead to better treatment options for this disease.
The Morris Animal Foundation recently awarded two fellowships to promote feline health research, including the one awarded to Dr. Quimby. The Amanda Feline Fellowship, fully funded by an anonymous cat enthusiast, provides Dr. Quimby with $100,000 for the two-year fellowship.
"With this fellowship, I hope to explore why cats develop chronic kidney disease and to begin to develop potential stem cell therapies," said Dr. Quimby, a veterinarian working as a research fellow in the Department of Clinical Sciences. Her mentors are Dr. Susan M. Bailey, in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences, and Dr. Steven W. Dow, Department of Clinical Sciences.
Dr. Jessica Quimby with Aphelia
Chronic kidney disease includes conditions that damage the kidneys and decrease their ability to remove waste from the body, as well as regulate fluids, certain hormones and electrolytes; and remove drugs and toxins. If kidney disease gets worse, wastes can build to high levels in the blood. Cats may develop complications such as anemia, loss of appetite, dehydration, high blood pressure, oral ulcers, and poor nutritional health. These problems may happen slowly over a long period of time.
Dr. Quimby's research will examine telomeres—specialized protective structures located at the ends of chromosomes—in the kidneys of older cats to attempt to discover the cause and developmental stages of CRF. The DNA component of telomeres gradually shortens with age and eventually becomes too short for protective structures to form, and signals the cell to stop dividing.
The research team will investigate the role of this process, called cell senescence, in the development of feline CRF. Using a series of tests, they will compare measurements of cell senescence in cats with and without CRF. Demonstrating a role for cellular senescence in the disease process would open up avenues for new therapeutic interventions for cats suffering from chronic kidney disease.
The fellowships are part of the foundation's Happy Healthy Cat Campaign, which aims to raise pet owner awareness of feline health issues and to increase funding for feline health research and scientist training.
Frankie's Fund for Feline Stem Cell Research provides funding for investigations into the effectiveness of stem cell therapy for the treatment of several major diseases in cats, including chronic kidney disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and asthma. The fund is named for Frankie, a blue-point Siamese that participated in a clinical trial of stem cell therapy for chronic kidney disease. Your gift to Frankie's Fund supports the CSU Center for Companion Animal Stem Cell Research, where scientists are working to improve the quality of every cat's nine lives (and dogs, too).