Researchers Pay it Forward

02/18/2011

Detecting a common condition in Labrador Retrievers just got easier. Since identifying a gene linked with Labradors collapsing after intense exercise, researchers have developed a DNA test to identify an inherited syndrome known as Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC).

The test has been administered to more than 10,000 dogs at the University of Minnesota's Veterinary Diagnostic Lab since its 2008 availability, reports Jim Mickelson, PhD, professor of veterinary biomedical sciences at the University of Minnesota and co-principal investigator of the AKC Canine Health Foundation-funded study. The study has been published in the journal Nature Genetics.  

“This test is being used to both confirm an EIC diagnosis, and also for breeding purposes to prevent producing affected dogs - both of which are very helpful,” says the study’s other co-principal investigator Ned Patterson, DVM, PhD, of the University of Minnesota.

More good news: Researchers have funneled more than $100,000 from testing proceeds back to CHF for additional research funding. “We’re really excited to be in the position to give back because our research program depends in a large part on the support of CHF,” says Mickelson. “Grants like this are really important for research laboratories’ goal of improving the health and well-being of dogs. Genetics is one way that can be accomplished - sometimes quite rapidly and with widespread results.”

Echoes Patterson: “Royalties should go back to private funding foundations to help other research. I’m very proud that some of the royalties for the EIC test go back for further canine research to impact canine health.”

Both researchers stress the need for reasonably-priced canine tests. “I strongly believe that researchers who receive foundation funds for grants or public money should keep genetic tests affordable, as we’ve done with this test costing $65, plus any veterinary costs to get the sample,” says Patterson.

Adds Mickelson: “Our goal was to develop a DNA test the public can use. The point is not to make money for a laboratory in doing these tests, but to make the test available. It’s really pleasing that the public is starting to use these tests and that breed clubs are using these tests to improve their dogs’ health.”

While tests pinpointing canine conditions typically don’t generate profits that can be fed back into research, Mickelson suggests, “I think it’s largely because Labrador Retrievers are the most popular breed in the world, and this mutation has the highest frequency in this breed. So there’s a need for a lot of testing.”

“This test appears to be having a big impact,” Patterson adds - especially since EIC is potentially life-threatening. “Most dogs that collapse recover with rest and cooling within 30 minutes or so. However, some dogs with severe episodes have died. So by breeders using the test to prevent affected dogs, it has and will help reduce deaths. People are very thankful that now we have a confirmatory test, whereas before it was a diagnosis of excluding all likely similar diseases and then a presumptive diagnosis of EIC that one still had to wonder about.” 

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