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Gene study offers hope for treating fatal illness in children and dogs
Using SingleCut CRISPR gene editing, they managed to modify the dogs’ own DNA so they began producing dystrophin again.

Doctors and vets team up to study Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Vets and medics say they have made a significant breakthrough in the search for a treatment for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) - a fatal disease that affects children and dogs.

Scientists from the Royal Veterinary College and UT Southwestern Medical Centre used gene editing techniques in dogs, to restore the production of a protein that is absent in DMD patients.

DMD is the most common fatal genetic disease in children and it also occurs in many dog breeds. Patients with the disease produce almost no dystrophin, a protein that helps to protect muscle fibres and the heart when they contract. As a result, the patient’s muscles are damaged, leading to an inability to walk, skeletal deformities and heart failure.

The team said they may have come up with a single intravenous injection to treat the most common genetic mutations.

A naturally occurring mutation in the dystrophin gene was found in a dog that was being treated at the RVC’s Small Animal Referral Hospital, and the team are now working with the dog’s relatives. Using SingleCut CRISPR gene editing, they managed to modify the dogs’ own DNA so they began producing dystrophin again.

In a dog that received the highest dose, the cardiac muscles restored dystrophin protein to levels up to 92 per cent of the normal amount after treatment.

Scientists believe this is the first time this type of gene editing therapy has been used after birth in an animal larger than a rodent. It is hoped there will be a human application, after long-term research, efficacy and safety testing.

Richard Piercy, professor of comparative neuromuscular disease at the RVC, said: “There is more work to be done, but with this exciting breakthrough, we feel we are a significant step closer to finding an effective treatment.
 
“A great many genetic diseases affect humans, dogs and other species - many, like DMD - with tragic consequences and this form of gene editing treatment might well be applicable in many of them. We’re hopeful that we’re paving the way for future research into treating some of the most serious genetic conditions that affect us today.”

Preliminary findings have been published in the journal Science.

Image © RVC
 

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Nominations for 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards now open

News Story 1
 People across the UK are being urged to nominate a standout animal champion for the 2019 RSPCA Honours Awards.

The awards recognise those who have worked tirelessly to improve animal welfare, campaigned on behalf of animals, or shown true bravery. Previous winners include comedian John Bishop, who was awarded Celebrity Animal Champion of the Year, and 11-year-old Lobby Cantwell, who raised more than £1,000 for the charity through mountain climbs and bike rides.

To submit a nomination or find out more about the awards visit the RSPCA website. Nominations will remain open until 4 pm on Friday, March 15.  

Click here for more...
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New £1m project to investigate dairy cow lameness

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) is leading a new £1 million research project to investigate the causes of lameness in dairy cows.

One in three dairy cows are affected by lameness every day in the UK, costing the industry an estimated £250 milion annually.

The project will take three years to complete and is due to finish by November 2021.

Professor Georgios Banos of SRUC commented: “In addition to pain and discomfort to the animal, lameness is associated with decreased milk production and inflated farm costs.

“Among cows raised in the same environment, some become lame while others do not. Understanding the reasons behind this will help us develop targeted preventive practices contributing to enhanced animal welfare and farm profitability.”