A Clinician-Scientist Success Story

07/20/2021
Author: Sharon M. Albright, DVM, CCRT

Shelby Gasson, DVM, PhD started a small animal surgical residency at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences in July 2021. It is another promising chapter in her career focused on canine orthopedic disease. As the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF) GCHP Hill Country's Let's Get Ready To Rumble “Rumble” Clinician-Scientist Fellow from 2018-2020 (akcchf.org/rumble), Dr. Gasson collaborated with her mentor Dr. Brian Saunders and a team at Texas A&M University working to develop regenerative therapies for challenging orthopedic conditions in dogs. The collaboration has been a resounding success – both for Dr. Gasson and her patients.

Shelby Gasson, DVM, PhD
At Texas A&M University:
Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Science
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine
Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences
Small animal surgical residency

Plus, internships at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital (NJ) and
Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists (TX)

 
Shelby Gasson


Dr. Gasson’s fellowship research focused on developing a novel system to reconstruct the complex tissue layers of a joint surface. Small injuries to the cartilage of a canine joint have a big impact on joint function - leading to pain, lameness, and worsening arthritis. Unfortunately, cartilage has a limited ability to repair and renew itself and existing treatments like pain medication, surgical or arthroscopic cleaning of the joint, and cartilage transplants are not always successful. Therefore, the research team set out to create a three-dimensional scaffold made of synthetic materials and canine regenerative cells capable of mimicking the joint surface. If successful, the resulting scaffold could be used to restore normal joint structure and function following injury.

“It is difficult to secure funding for this type of work in veterinary medicine,” says Brian Saunders, DVM, PhD, DACVS, Gasson’s mentor and Director of the Canine Comparative Orthopedics & Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory (CCOCTL) at Texas A&M University. “Support from the AKC Canine Health Foundation allowed our lab to focus on dogs and has been instrumental in helping us achieve our goals in the veterinary space.”


Learn more about Dr. Saunders’ CHF-funded research, Grant 02078: Development of a Regenerative Medicine Technique to Treat Cartilage Disorders in Dogs.


One of the challenging aspects of this research is finding and fostering conditions ideal for regenerative cells to differentiate into the tissue types that make up the joint surface (cartilage, calcified cartilage, and subchondral bone). Each layer has distinct characteristics that must be recreated for successful regenerative therapy. Dr. Gasson and her colleagues have been working to define these optimal conditions. They studied various scaffold materials and compounds that help cells differentiate appropriately. Results thus far are promising and have been published in scientific journals and presented at international scientific conferences. (See Publications and Presentations below.)

Additional research is needed to optimize cell differentiation conditions and there is a long way to go before tissue scaffolds become a clinical reality, but Dr. Gasson is excited to head back to Texas A&M to continue her research. “This work is pushing the boundary of what we can offer canine patients in the clinical setting,” Dr. Gasson says. “We have an opportunity to improve the gold standard of care for canine orthopedic disease. And we might help people with these injuries too.”

Dr. Gasson did not have much research experience prior to veterinary school. “Receiving a Clinician-Scientist Fellowship from CHF provided me with the encouragement I needed and introduced me to the right people to pursue the research I wanted to do,” Dr. Gasson says. “I was humbled to be selected for multiple years of funding. This early success in securing funding and presenting my work in the scientific community has given me great confidence as I continue my research career.”

Dr. Saunders notes that Gasson’s success is a testament to the value of CHF’s educational grants. “She approached me as a veterinary student, early in her career, and expressed an interest in research,” Saunders says. “The CHF-funded fellowship gave her some experience which blossomed into a research career. Clinician scientists, those who work in the laboratory and clinical setting, provide a unique and important voice in today’s collaborative research environment. While it is challenging to manage one’s time and priorities in two spaces, the work is very rewarding because our clinical experience helps refine our focus in the laboratory. Dr. Gasson’s CHF-funded fellowship really enabled this type of training and collaboration. We are very grateful for the individual donors, breed clubs, and more that support our work and our students.”

That is the goal of CHF’s Clinician-Scientist Fellowship Program – to encourage and support the next generation of canine health researchers. Since 2013, the program has supported 35 promising researchers. Many of them, like Dr. Gasson, have continued their career in canine health research and clinical service, contributing to the health of current and future generations of dogs. Thanks to the generosity of donors like Carolyn and Gary Koch and breeders Kristy and Kevin Ratliff, sponsors of Dr. Gasson’s fellowship, CHF will continue to find and fund ground-breaking health research and offer educational grants so that all dogs can live longer, healthier lives.

Visit akcchf.org/clinsci to learn more and support CHF’s Clinician-Scientist Fellowship Program.


Publications and Presentations

Publications:
Gasson SB, Dobson LK, Chow L, Dow S, Gregory CA, Saunders WB. (2021) Optimizing in vitro osteogenesis in canine autologous and iPS-derived mesenchymal stromal cells with dexamethasone and bone morphogenic protein (BMP)-2. Stem Cells Dev., 30, 214-226.

Presentations:
Gasson SB, Dobson LK, Pfau M, Beltran F, Grunlan M, Saunders WB. In vitro and in vivo Assessment of Poly(-caprolactone) and Poly(-caprolactone)-Poly(L-lactic acid) Shape Memory Polymers for Bone Tissue Engineer-ing; Virtual Presentation
Veterinary Orthopedic Society; Virtual Conference; March 2021

Gasson SB, Dobson LK, Chow L, Dow S, Gregory SA, Saunders WB. Optimizing in vitro osteogenesis in canine autologous and iPS-derived mesenchymal stromal cells with dexamethasone and bone morphogenic protein (BMP)-2; Virtual Poster Presentation
International Society for Stem Cell Research 2020 Annual Meeting (Virtual); June 2020

Gasson SB, Dobson LK, Pfau M, Beltran F, Grunlan M, Saunders WB. Poly(-caprolactone) and poly (-capro-lactone)-Poly(L-lactic acid) shape memory polymer scaffolds as suitable platforms for in vitro osteogenesis of canine mesenchymal stromal cells; Poster Presentations
International Society for Stem Cell Research 2020 Annual Meeting (Virtual); June 2020 Texas A&M CVM Trainee Research Symposium; College Station, Texas, January 2020

Gasson SB, Dobson LK, Chow L, Dow S, Saunders WB. In Vitro Osteogenesis in Autologous and iPS-derived Canine Mesenchymal Stromal Cells is Modulated by Dexamethasone and Bone Morphogenic Protein-2; Podium Presentation
Veterinary Orthopedic Society; Breckenridge, CO, February 2019

Gasson SB, Dobson LK, Chow L, Dow S, Saunders WB. Disparate Response of Autologous Versus iPS-derived Canine Mesenchymal Stromal Cells During In vitro Osteogenesis in Response to Dexamethasone and Bone Morphogenic Protein-2; Podium Presentation
Texas A&M CVM Trainee Research Symposium; College Station, Texas, January 2019

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