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Gene mutation causes sight loss in dogs and humans
In healthy dogs, ABCA4 plays a vital role in the normal visual cycle when light hits the eye.
Study finds ABCA4 mutation causes retinal degenerative diseases 

Scientists have identified a genetic mutation that causes retinal degenerative diseases in both humans and dogs.

In children and young adults, Stargardt disease is one of the most common types of inherited retinal degenerative disease. Now, an international research team has found that a mutation in the ABCA4 gene causes a similar disease in Labrador retrievers.

Published in PLOS Genetics, the findings could help to breed healthy dogs and develop novel treatment for human patients.

Labradors can suffer from inherited conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which is caused by the degeneration of photoreceptor cells. In humans, this is called retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

Until now, only one mutation in the PRCD gene had been found to cause inherited retinal degeneration in Labradors. But 10 years ago a dog was found to have visual impairment not caused by the previously known mutation.

In healthy dogs, ABCA4 plays a vital role in the normal visual cycle when light hits the eye. According to the new findings, dogs affected by the mutation cannot produce a functional ABCA4 protein. Toxic byproducts produced when the photoreceptors detect light cause cell death and lead to visual impairment.

Mutations in the ABCA4 gene are the major case of Stargardt disease in humans, which affects around one in 8,000-10,000 children and young adults. Scientists say disease progression appears to be similar in Labradors.

Study director Tomas Bergström said: “We hope that the results of this study will not only support breeding of healthy dogs, but also enhance the development of new treatments for children and young adults with Stargardt disease.”

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RCVS launches photo contest for Mental Health Awareness Week

News Story 1
 The RCVS Mind Matters Initiative (MMI) is holding a photo competition for Mental Health Awareness Week to highlight the link between the natural world and wellbeing.

Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May) aims to encourage people to talk about their mental health and reduce the stigma that can prevent people from seeking help. This year's theme is nature - notably the connection between the natural world and better mental health.

The RCVS is calling on aspiring photographers to submit a photo on this theme to Lisa Quigley, Mind Matters manager, at l.quigley@rcvs.org.uk with a short explanation about their submission and why nature improves their mental health and wellbeing.  

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WSAVA to host free webinar on illegal online puppy trade

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) has announced a free webinar to update veterinary professionals across Europe about the illegal online puppy trade. Taking place on Tuesday, 25 May, the webinar will also discuss the importance of the new EU Animal Health Law to help prevent illegal pet sales and make sellers accountable for their actions.

WSAVA chair Dr Natasha Lee said: "Veterinary professionals regularly have to deal with the repercussions of illicit breeding and trading when presented with clinically ill and sometimes dying puppies and distraught owners. Our webinar will equip veterinarians in Europe with the knowledge to play their part in upholding the new legislation and to contribute to new solutions for regulating the online puppy trade."

For more details visit wsava.org