Dr. Steven Friedenberg
Dr. Friedenberg is a PhD student in the laboratory of Dr. Kate Meurs at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine. The focus of his research is understanding the genetic causes of autoimmune diseases in dogs.
Fellowship Research Project
Autoimmune diseases occur when the body attacks a part of itself – like joints, blood cells, or the pancreas – causing common diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or type I diabetes. Most of the time, we don’t know why this happens, but the causes are likely a mix of both genes and the environment. Because dogs share a common environment with humans and have the same types of naturally occurring autoimmune diseases, they offer an excellent opportunity to learn about these debilitating diseases.
The two diseases Dr. Friedenberg is currently studying are Addison’s disease and immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA). Addison’s disease is an endocrine disorder where the body attacks its own adrenal glands. The adrenal glands make important hormones that help humans and dogs cope with stress and control electrolyte balance. Similarly, IMHA is a blood disorder where the body attacks its own red blood cells – cells that are critical for carrying oxygen throughout the body. This disease is very common in breeds such as Cocker Spaniels and English Springer Spaniels, but is also seen in Labrador Retrievers, Shih Tzus, and other breeds. Current therapies for IMHA involve suppressing the immune system, which can cause additional complications. Dr. Friedenberg will take advantage of major advances in DNA sequencing to uncover the gene mutations that cause Addison’s disease and IMHA. By finding the mutations, he believes we can work to decrease the incidence of the disease.
Help Future Generations of Dogs
Participate in canine health research by providing samples or by enrolling in a clinical trial. Samples are needed from healthy dogs and dogs affected by specific diseases.