True Giants …. Curing humans & their animal companions

The Land of PureGold Foundation became a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit corporation in February 2005. The formation of our organization followed a period of 8 years that the Landofpuregold.com had been a presence on the web, supporting and engaging in various charitable endeavors and providing numerous educational activities to promote the human-canine bond.

One of our goals is to raise monies for research in comparative oncology, which is the study of cancers that occur similarly in companion animals and humans. Another, is to support and disseminate information on canine cancers; and, to educate and promote interest in research of those cancers in companion animals that share a similarity to the cancers that afflict children.

Given the tough economic times and the limited resources of such a small non-profit, fundraising has been difficult. But, we decided to bite the bullet and provide $20,000 to Dr. Jaime Modiano for one of his exciting comparative oncology research projects. The funding went to Minnesota Medical Foundation’s Comparative Oncology Research Fund for the following:

PROJECT TITLE: Discovery and Characterization of Heritable and Somatic Cancer Mutations in Golden Retrievers (this project also involves Hemangiosarcoma)

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Dr. Jaime Modiano (Veterinary Clinical Sciences), Dr. Jim Cerhan (Mayo Clinic), Dr. Matthew Breen (North Carolina State University), Dr. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh (Broad Institute)

PROJECT GOALS: We propose to identify and characterize heritable (genetic) traits that contribute to risk and progression of hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in golden retrievers. This project is developed as a partnership between the GRF and the Investigators, Drs. Modiano, Breen and Lindblad-Toh. The goal to “make a major impact” carries some risk, but in this project, risk is mitigated by the financial commitment from the GRF and MAF, as well as by the investigators’ entrepreneurial spirit, the extensive preliminary data from their laboratories, and their collective expertise applying state-of-the-art genome-wide technologies to cancer investigation. Our long-term goals are (1) to institute simple, straightforward tests to allow assessment of the specific genetic risk carried by an individual dog and thereby to allow breeders to develop strategies that will slowly reduce the incidence of hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in golden retrievers, while retaining the positive phenotypes of the breed, and (2) to develop effective diagnostics, risk reduction, and treatment strategies for hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma that will benefit not only golden retrievers and other dogs, but also humans with these diseases.

Dr. Modiano is a true treasure. Our back-and-forth correspondences have exemplified both his wisdom and patience, prized traits for successful researchers such as himself. Dr. Modiano is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine’s V.M.D.-Ph.D. Program. Graduates with this or D.V.M.-Ph.D. degrees go on to careers in translational research, thus qualified to develop and do research in animal models, compare basic biology across animals, and translate research findings to different species including humans.

Jaime Modiano is one of the graduates who elected to focus on academic research. After completing the V.M.D.-Ph.D. program at Penn, Modiano went to Colorado State University for a residency in pathology. At the end of his residency, he realized that “you can’t go into science with just a Ph.D. and clinical training. I really needed to do a postdoc.” He joined the lab of Erwin Gelfand at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine (now National Jewish Health) to do research on T-cell activation, the subject of his Ph.D. research. He soon realized, however, that his residency training in pathology and his research interest in immunology didn’t mesh well professionally.

“My research in immunology was so disconnected from [my clinical work] that I had to make a choice because I wasn’t being excellent at either aspect of my career,” Modiano says. He decided to stick with research and joined the staff of the University of Colorado–affiliated AMC Cancer Research Center while serving as an associate professor of immunology at the School of Medicine of the University of Colorado, Denver. “It was kind of fun being at a medical school and known as the weird guy who worked with dogs,” says Modiano, who is now a professor of comparative oncology at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and the Masonic Cancer Center, where his research focuses on immunology, cancer cell biology, cancer genetics, and applications of gene therapy. …

Irrespective of the path that their careers have taken, D.V.M.-Ph.D.s have opportunities to make significant contributions to biomedical research, for the benefit of both humans and animals. This becomes apparent in diseases such as cancer: Dogs and cats suffer from naturally occurring cancers similar to human cancers. Unlike rodent models, which are developed from inbred strains of mice kept in controlled environments, companion animals, like humans, are genetically diverse and are exposed to many of the same environmental influences as their owners are. …

A critical barrier to using companion animals in preclinical research is organizing those studies. It’s a problem that Chand Khanna recognized when he arrived at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1997 to do a postdoc. “I came with the intent to study molecular biology techniques,” says Khanna, a D.V.M-Ph.D. who is now a senior scientist in NCI’s pediatric oncology branch. “But I also came with the veterinarian perspective, and as I talked to people, I realized there was an opportunity to answer questions in dogs with cancer that can’t be answered in either humans or mice. And that is critical for the development of new drugs.”

To that end, Khanna created the Comparative Oncology Program within NCI’s Center for Cancer Research. By linking together veterinary scientists at research centers across the country and in Canada, the studies completed through the program’s Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium provide valuable information needed to design human clinical trials.

Khanna believes companion animals will play an ever-increasing role in biomedical research on cancer and other diseases. As such, he believes there is an obvious role for dual-degree veterinarians. Penn’s Volk agrees: “For me and most of my colleagues, … we are thrilled to make a difference for our animal patients,” Volk says. “But really, there is an opportunity with appropriate animal models to make a huge difference for the human community as well.”

The Human-Canine Connection: A Shared Genetic Makeup


I am fascinated by the fact that, about 15,000 years ago, dog domestication and human settlement took place virtually together. As a lover of all things dog, it would be nice to speculate that they played an important role in the development and structure of human society. Clearly, the more we research dogsespecially given the recent successful sequencing of the dog genomethe more we learn about ourselves. And, the more we see the powerful part they play in shaping and bettering our existence.

CANCER
Humans and dogs have been partners for thousands of years, our canine friends quite active in the fight against cancer. Dr. David Waters, Co-director of the Purdue Comparative Oncology Program, notes that dogs and humans are the only two species that develop lethal prostate cancers. And, the breast cancer that affects dogs spreads to bones, just as it does in women. Further, osteosarcoma, which is the most frequent bone cancer of dogs, presents in the same way as it does for our teenagers. In fact, under a microscope, cancer cells from a teenager with osteosarcoma are indistinguishable from a any breed dog’s bone cancer cells.

Drs. Modiano and Breen have found that humans and dogs share the same genetic basis for certain types of cancer. Furthermore, the researchers say that because of the way the genomes have evolved, getting cancer may be inevitable for some humans and dogs.

OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER
Scientists have found a shared gene in dogs with compulsive behavior. Obsessive-compulsive disorder afflicts anywhere from 2.5 percent to 8 percent of the human population, and according to Dr. Karen L. Overall, a veterinarian specializing in animal behavior at the U of PA School of Medicine, up to 8 percent of dogs in America (5 to 6 million) — exhibit compulsive behaviors, such as, fence-running, pacing, spinning, tail-chasing, snapping at imaginary flies, licking, chewing, barking and staring.

Researchers studied Doberman pinschers that curled up into balls, sucking their flanks for hours at a time, and found that the afflicted dogs shared a gene. They describe their findings — the first such gene identified in dogs — in a short report this month in Molecular Psychiatry.

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the animal behavior clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, in North Grafton, Mass., and the lead author of the report, said the findings had broad implications for compulsive disorders in people and animals.

Some geneticists believe that due to pedigree and similarity of genes to those of humans, “dogs make an ideal model for studying human behaviors and pathologies, especially those involving complex patterns of inheritance. Few humans keep detailed genealogies for themselves, but they are diligent in recording every detail in the ancestry of their purebred animals.”

GREGARIOUSNESS & SOCIAL MEMORY
The dog genome has been decoded by researchers at Massachusetts’ Broad Institute, via sequencing of the boxer’s genome, and also by DNA sequencing pioneer, Craig Venter, who decoded his poodle’s genome. Based on both genomes, the Broad Institute designed a dog SNP chip, similar to those used in scanning humans for genetic disease. SNPs, or “snips,” are sites of common variation along the DNA. A UCLA research team led by Bridgett M. vonHoldt and Robert K. Wayne used the dog SNP chip to scan for genes that show signatures of selection.

One such favored dog gene has a human counterpart that has been implicated in Williams syndrome, where it causes exceptional gregariousness.

Many with Williams have so vague a concept of space, for instance, that even as adults they will fail at six-piece jigsaw puzzles, easily get lost, draw like a preschooler and struggle to replicate a simple T or X shape built with a half-dozen building blocks. Few can balance a checkbook. These deficits generally erase about 35 points from whatever I.Q. the person would have inherited without the deletion. Since the average I.Q. is 100, this leaves most people with Williams with I.Q.’s in the 60s. Though some can hold simple jobs, they require assistance managing their lives.

The low I.Q., however, ignores two traits that define Williams more distinctly than do its deficits: an exuberant gregariousness and near-normal language skills. Williams people talk a lot, and they talk with pretty much anyone. They appear to truly lack social fear. Indeed, functional brain scans have shown that the brain’s main fear processor, the amygdala, which in most of us shows heightened activity when we see angry or worried faces, shows no reaction when a person with Williams views such faces. It’s as if they see all faces as friendly.

Another two selected genes are involved in memory. Dogs, unlike wolves, are adept at taking cues from human body language, and the two genes could have something to do with this faculty, Dr. Wayne said.

How Dogs Read Human Body Language: Is your dog reading you like a book?
By Stanley Coren

Most dog owners have had the experience of simply glancing at where the leash is hanging, only to find that Lassie is now headed for the door in anticipation of a walk. While this seems like an everyday event to dog owners, it has special significance to scientists because of what it indicates about how dogs think. First of all, it shows that dogs have the ability to read human body language. In addition, it shows that dogs feel that our movements and gestures contain important cues as to what will happen next in their world.

For decades, scientists have been studying “social cognition” in dogs. This simply refers to how well dogs read cues in the behaviour of others. As humans, we do this automatically. For instance, we know that when the person we are talking to starts glancing at his or her watch, we had best get to the point quickly. All social mammals have evolved remarkably discriminating ways of reading the signals sent to them by their group members, normally members of the same species. However recent research shows that dogs are surprisingly good at reading certain types of social cues in humans.

The experimental set-up used to test for such perception in animals is quite simple. Start with two inverted bucketlike containers. Place a morsel of food under one of them while the subject of the test is out of sight. Of course you must make sure that both containers have been rubbed with the food so that there is no scent difference. Now bring the subject in and give some sort o social cue to indicate which bucket actually contains the food. The most obvious cue would be to tap the container with the food. Less obvious would be to point your finger toward it. An even more muted signal would be to tilt your head or body toward it without pointing. The subtlest signal of all would be not to move your head or body but to simply look with your eyes toward the correct container. If the subject chooses the right container he gets the food. Simple, huh? Don’t bet on it.

Surprisingly, Daniel J. Povinelli, a psychologist at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, found that our closest animal relatives, chimpanzees, were initially quite poor at this task. (Actually, so were three-year-old human children, though they were better than the apes.) However, both the chimps and the kids could quickly learn to read the correct cues. The real surprise came when a team led by Robert Hare of Harvard University ran the same test on dogs. The dogs could immediately interpret the signals indicating the location of the food four times better than the apes, and more than twice as well as the young children, even if the experimenter was a stranger.

Now the real question is: where did dogs get this talent? The first guess might be that since dogs are descended from pack-hunting wolves, the ability to pick up social signals evolved to help coordinate the hunt. If so, one would imagine that wolves should be at least as good at the bucket task as dogs. However when Hare tested wolves at the Wolf Hollow Wolf Sanctuary in Massachusetts, he found that they were actually worse than chimpanzees and a lot worse than dogs. The next guess might be that dogs learn to read human body language because they hang out with and watch their human families. This would suggest that young puppies, especially those still living with their littermates and not yet adopted into human families, should be poorer at picking up human signals. Wrong again! Even nine-week-old puppies, still living with their mother and littermates, do better than wolves or chimps. “The punch line is that this ability was not inherited from the last common dog-wolf ancestor, and it does not take tremendous exposure to humans,” said Hare in a recent conversation.

With the experimental evidence driving wooden stakes through the hearts of the two most obvious explanations, we are still left with the question: where do dogs get their superior ability to read human signals from? Once again we have two candidate explanations, both concerning evolutionary changes that occurred during dogs’ domestication.

Obviously, dogs that could figure out their masters’ intentions and desires would have been more likely to thrive in a human-dominated environment and hence produce more young. But were specific dogs initially chosen to be domesticated because they had a better ability to understand people? Or was the improved ability some sort of unintended by-product that arose during the process of domestication?

It is easy to find rational reasons to support either of these two theories. Obviously people would tend to prefer and form stronger bonds with dogs that could understand human body language. However the alternative theory could also work. Domestication usually involves selecting the tamest and most easily managed animals-for safety’s sake, if nothing else. According to Hare, “If you select against aggression, a whole suite of changes accompanies that reduction in aggression. There are a lot of unintended changes that occur as by-products.” In a classic early set of experiments on captive foxes, it was shown that these changes are not just behavioural, but include tendencies toward floppy ears, tails held high, and multi-coloured coats. “So it’s possible that this ability in dogs is simply a by-product of domestication. You pick the calmer, more attentive animals, and they also happen to be the ones that are better able to pick up subtle social cues.”

Unfortunately the scientific jury is still out. We simply don’t have enough data to decide whether humans deliberately chose dogs that could better understand our social signals, or whether this ability is a “hitchhiker” trait that came along on the evolutionary ride to domestication. Regardless, this is yet more proof that our domestic dog is not merely an urban-dwelling wolf that has learned to sport a veneer of civilization in order to get free room and board. Rather, the dog is a separate species that has evolved, or more precisely co-evolved, with humans.

Given the fact that we started this discussion with every dog owner’s presumption-as an article of faith and observation- that our pet dogs understand our body language and signals, I simply could not end my interview with Hare without asking, “Won’t dog people think that this research finding is obvious?”

“I had the same reaction,” he replied. “I knew that people would say, ‘Of course dogs understand this kind of thing!’ But it’s one thing to say it and another to go and demonstrate it. The people who were really surprised were the scientists-not the lay people.”

Stanley Coren is Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia and author of several books on dogs, including How to Speak Dog and Pawprints of History. His website is www.stanleycoren.com.

New Hemangiosarcoma Research

SAR Brady (certifications: NAPWDA Area Search, NASAR SAR TECH II, NASAR Canine SAR TECH II, Canine Good Citizen

This is Brady, one of the dogs that we are following and who has received a grant from our foundation to help with his hemangiosarcoma’s treatment costs.

A new study jointly conducted by Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine and the Oregon Health & Science University Cancer Institute may one day help both canines and humans with this form of cancer.

Brian Druker, M.D., director of the OHSU Cancer Institute who discovered the targeted therapy drug Gleevec for chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), is teaming up with OSU veterinary oncologist and researcher Stuart Helfand, D.V.M. Dr. Helfand was one of the first to discover abnormalities in hemangiosarcoma growth pathways similar to those responsible for CML in humans.

Hemangiosarcomas strike all dog breeds, but is more often noted in German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers. It is a rapidly growing, highly invasive cancer. Thanks to this grant, the Druker Laboratory is now studying a cell line developed in Helfand’s laboratory from a German Shepherd that died of this sarcoma. The researchers want to see what drugs can be developed to treat this disease. In turn, this research may ultimately benefit people with similar cancers.

Golden Retriever Hunter’s Stem Cell Life

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Fellow Golden Sam (photo by Geoff Hendrickson)

Hunter has severe arthritis in his left hip but has shown quick improvement after being injected with his own stem cells.

“His leg, it’s almost like it’s lifeless and it’ll drift back,” Linda said, referring to Hunter’s tendency to favor his right leg.

X-rays show that Hunter has hip dysplasia, a common ailment in purebred dogs that causes the ball of the leg bone to loosen from its socket, causing painful wearing on the joint. “You can see that the edges of the bone are very worn away. They’re not nearly as smooth,” said veterinarian Jerry Bausman.

Facing the possibility of a shortened life for Hunter, the Rihas were considering a $10,000 hip replacement, when the doctors offered something new, different, and much cheaper. For only about $2,500 they could treat Hunter with his own stem cells, the healing and regenerative cells that live in both humans and animals. …

“We’re kind of reverting the body back to a younger age or a younger stage when we were more of a regenerative stage,” said Bausman. In a fairly easy procedure, Hunter’s stem cells will be recovered from his body fat, isolated in a laboratory, and re-injected into his hip in greater concentration than his own body could accomplish.

Inspiration from Golden Retriever Sassy

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This youngster, Allison Reed, is pretty amazing. The daughter of two scientists who work on developing cancer treatments at a biotech company, she devoted her recent science fair project to finding a cure for canine cancer.

Allison Reed examines lab results.Allison was inspired by her Golden Sassy (shown above), who died from bladder cancer at the incredibly young age of three.

Allison said, “I wanted to know why she died of cancer. So last year, I looked at her p53 gene and it’s the stop gene, and then this year I looked at her gmcsf gene, which is her immune gene.”

Click here to see a most impressive video about this project.

Golden Retriever Callie trying to beat melanoma

At our foundation’s site, we have detailed where the fight is centered in the continuing fight to beat cancer for both our companion animals, and ourselves. One such treatment for melanoma involves that of vaccines which are showing incredible promise .

Check out this wonderful video that shows Golden Callie and a Pomeranian pal named Coco who are trying to beat this disease. Just click on the movie icon.

And, please realize that this vaccine is now being used in humans and is meeting with success. That is what comparative oncology research is all about.

Genetics and the Shape of Dogs

Chihuahua-toy poodle mix and Scottish deerhound

These playful companions—a chihuahua–toy poodle mix and a Scottish deerhound—are both representatives of the species Canis familiaris. How a single species can exhibit such immense variation in size and other attributes has become a compelling question for mammalian geneticists. Recent sequencing of the dog genome has provided new insights into what a dog breed really is and has contributed to new techniques for mapping genes controlling body shape and size. Photograph courtesy of Tyrone Spady and Elaine A. Ostrander.

Check out Elaine A Ostrander’s wonderful article, “Genetics and the Shape of Dogs: Studying the new sequence of the canine genome shows how tiny genetic changes can create enormous variation within a single species”

Just click here to read this important work.

Golden Retriever Learning of the Day: August 29th

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Dogs with cancer may help take a bite out of human disease. Understanding the important of research in comparative oncology.


Meet 12-year-old Golden Alex, a hero of cancer research.

Dr. Patty Khuly has some great articles on the lowdown to how vets recommend pet food. Check out Part I: Industry and Part II: Education.

‘FAST-TRACK’ CANINE LYMPHOMA BLOOD TEST

I hope folks have been to our Foundation’s site and taken in all the great information on cancer, especially those proactive ways we can work at preventing the disease or spotting it sooner.

Last year I learned about PetScreen, a company that had developed a canine lymphoma blood screening test.

It is important to realize, however, that some forms of lymphoma are especially aggressive and a yearly or even bi-annual screen would not preclude a dog from developing the disease. However, the test can be helpful with some of the more elusive forms of lymphoma which occur in the intestinal tract or spine.

It is wise to remember that one of the best ways to screen our dogs is to pay close attention to them physically and behaviorally. Whenever a small bump or lump or swollen gland is noticed, it needs to be checked out by the vet right away. As soon as you notice your dog acting differently, having less energy, or showing other physical changes, that is the time to get him or her to the vet. A screening test is only able to tell you about a limited period of time. No one wants to have a false sense of security because of a test completed one or more months ago.

According to the company, it has become clear that in addition to using the lymphoma blood test as a minimally invasive tool to monitor canine patients at risk of developing lymphoma, veterinarians are increasingly utilizing it as a presumptive diagnostic test, when dogs present with non-specific symptoms commensurate with lymphoma.

Already practices are finding the test to be a helpful routine screening tool for dogs at risk of lymphoma, namely recognized high risk breeds or dogs whose parent or sibling has suffered from the disease. Additionally, the test is being used as a minimally invasive triage tool for canine patients exhibiting signs of lymphoma such as weight loss, PU/PD, loss of appetite or lethargy. Since the test requires only a simple 1 ml blood sample, it causes minimal discomfort for the patient and helps the practice plan further investigations.

PetScreen realized that a faster turn around time was required if the test were to be used in this manner, and in response to these needs a 48 hour service is now available. The test is available throughout the UK, USA and Canada. It can even be booked online via the PetScreen website or by calling 0800 028 4811 from the UK or 516 874 3701 in the USA and Canada.

My latest contact with the company indicates that they are currently working on the development of equivalent blood tests for canine mast cell and osteosarcoma. I will certainly update folks when these additional tests become available.

Dogs are as smart as we thought

Dogs Copy Other Dogs’ Actions Selectively, The Way Humans Do

Science Daily — A distinguishing feature of human intelligence is our ability to understand the goals and intentions of others. This ability develops gradually during infancy, and the extent to which it is present in other animals is an intriguing question.

New research by Friederike Range and Ludwig Huber, of the University of Vienna, and Zsofia Viranyi, of the Eötvös University in Budapest, reveals striking similarities between humans and dogs in the way they imitate the actions of others. The phenomenon under investigation is known as “selective imitation” and implies that dogs–like human infants–do not simply copy an action they observe, but adjust the extent to which they imitate to the circumstances of the action.

Go here to learn more . . . .

Golden Retriever Tails a Waggin’ … Left & Right have different meanings

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A Matter of Degree
Seeing its owner, the dog wagged harder to its right. Shown an
unfamiliar dog, the bias was to the left. Center forNeuroscience/U of Trieste

Click here to see 2 video clips. One is named: Uneven Tail Wagging and the other: The Analysis.

If You Want to Know if Spot Loves You So, It’s in His Tail
By SANDRA BLAKESLEE, New York Times, April 24, 2007

Every dog lover knows how a pooch expresses its feelings. Ears close to the head, tense posture, and tail straight out from the body means “don’t mess with me.” Ears perked up, wriggly body and vigorously wagging tail means “I am sooo happy to see you!”

But there is another, newly discovered, feature of dog body language that may surprise attentive pet owners and experts in canine behavior. When dogs feel fundamentally positive about something or someone, their tails wag more to the right side of their rumps. When they have negative feelings, their tail wagging is biased to the left.

A study describing the phenomenon, “Asymmetric tail-wagging responses by dogs to different emotive stimuli,” appeared in the March 20 issue of Current Biology. The authors are Giorgio Vallortigara, a neuroscientist at the University of Trieste in Italy, and two veterinarians, Angelo Quaranta and Marcello Siniscalchi, at the University of Bari, also in Italy.

“This is an intriguing observation,” said Richard J. Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It fits with a large body of research showing emotional asymmetry in the brain, he said.

Research has shown that in most animals, including birds, fish and frogs, the left brain specializes in behaviors involving what the scientists call approach and energy enrichment. In humans, that means the left brain is associated with positive feelings, like love, a sense of attachment, a feeling of safety and calm. It is also associated with physiological markers, like a slow heart rate.

At a fundamental level, the right brain specializes in behaviors involving withdrawal and energy expenditure. In humans, these behaviors, like fleeing, are associated with feelings like fear and depression. Physiological signals include a rapid heart rate and the shutdown of the digestive system.

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Right Brain, Left Brain
The muscles on either side of the tail apparently reflect
emotions like fear & love registering in the brain. Marcello Siniscalchi/U of Trieste

Because the left brain controls the right side of the body and the right brain controls the left side of the body, such asymmetries are usually manifest in opposite sides of the body. Thus many birds seek food with their right eye (left brain/nourishment) and watch for predators with their left eye (right brain/danger).

In humans, the muscles on the right side of the face tend to reflect happiness (left brain) whereas muscles on the left side of the face reflect unhappiness (right brain).

Dog tails are interesting, Dr. Davidson said, because they are in the midline of the dog’s body, neither left nor right. So do they show emotional asymmetry, or not?

To find out, Dr. Vallortigara and his colleagues recruited 30 family pets of mixed breed that were enrolled in an agility training program. The dogs were placed in a cage equipped with cameras that precisely tracked the angles of their tail wags. Then they were shown four stimuli through a slat in the front of the cage: their owner; an unfamiliar human; a cat; and an unfamiliar, dominant dog.

In each instance the test dog saw a person or animal for one minute, rested for 90 seconds and saw another view. Testing lasted 25 days with 10 sessions per day.

When the dogs saw their owners, their tails all wagged vigorously with a bias to the right side of their bodies, Dr. Vallortigara said. Their tails wagged moderately, again more to the right, when faced with an unfamiliar human. Looking at the cat, a four-year-old male whose owners volunteered him for the experiment, the dogs’ tails again wagged more to the right but in a lower amplitude.

When the dogs looked at an aggressive, unfamiliar dog — a large Belgian shepherd Malinois — their tails all wagged with a bias to the left side of their bodies.

Thus when dogs were attracted to something, including a benign, approachable cat, their tails wagged right, and when they were fearful, their tails went left, Dr. Vallortigara said. It suggests that the muscles in the right side of the tail reflect positive emotions while the muscles in the left side express negative ones.

While some researchers have argued that only humans show brain asymmetry — based on the evolution of language in the left brain — strong left and right biases are showing up in the brains of many so-called simpler creatures, said Lesley Rogers, a neuroscientist who studies brain asymmetry at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia.

There’s more . . . . .

Golden mix Abby’s cancer

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Vet hospital touts progress
CSU expertise increases with growth of discipline

By SARA REED and V. Richard Haro (photos), The Fort Collins Coloradoan

Frank Profaizer. left, of Cheyenne, Wyo., discusses Abby’s cancer with Dr. Susan Plaza, middle, clinical trials coordinator at Colorado State University’s Veterinarian Teaching Hospital, as Dr. Kate Vickery, right, a resident oncologist, measures Abby’s lymph node. Abby is an 11-year-old golden retriever/chow mix that has been coming to CSU for about five years for treatment for lymphoma.

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Dr. Kate Vickery measures Abby’s lymph node.

Since its birth, the college has grown into a center of nationally and internationally renowned research in areas such as animal reproduction, cancer and radiological biology and infectious diseases, forging ahead in research that could help save lives and change the world.

The college, which is consistently ranked in the top two colleges of its kind, spent more money on research last year than any other similar college, said Dr. Lance Perryman, dean of the college. The $54 million spent on research last school year accounted for 20 percent of CSU’s total research expenditures.

Research within the college has produced treatment techniques that increase the survival rate of children who suffer from osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer; identified estrogen receptors in the brain as a factor in anxiety and depression; and identified a possible link between protein buildup in the brain and Alzheimer’s.

‘Something priceless’

For all the global implications of the research coming out of the college, some of it hits close to home. Abby, a 10-year-old golden retriever/chow mix that has battled lymphoma for five years, is one of the many animals and humans who have benefited or figure to benefit from research coming out of the college.

Abby is on her third clinical trial as part of her treatment at the Animal Cancer Center. Her owner, Frank Profaizer, said he and his family are so grateful to the doctors and other employees at the center.

The Profaizer family, who lives in Cheyenne, sometimes brings Abby to Fort Collins daily. They’ve given us something priceless,” he said. “They gave us five more years with her. We couldn’t have gotten through this without the (vet teaching hospital).”

The trials Abby has gone through, which include a chemotherapy and nutritional supplement study, can help develop treatments for people and other animals living with cancer. Profaizer said he thinks Abby was put here to be studied and be of service to others.

“The bottom line is that if they can learn (from her) and help another dog or a human, that fulfills her purpose here,” Profaizer said.

Insights Into Osteosarcoma In Cats And Dogs May Improve Palliative Care

Insights Into Osteosarcoma In Cats And Dogs May Improve Palliative Care

Science Daily — Researchers at the University of Illinois have found that a molecular pathway known to have a role in the progression of bone cancer in humans is also critical to the pathology of skeletal tumors in dogs and cats. Their work could lead to advances in the palliative care of companion animals afflicted with osteosarcoma.

The research team, which included U. of I. pathobiology professor Anne Barger, examined the homeostatic role of an enzyme, receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-B (known as RANK), and two key modulators of its activity: RANK ligand (RANK-L) and osteoprotegrin (OPG). RANK is one of a family of receptors that regulates bone and immune homeostasis. In health, RANK, RANK-L and OPG together keep the continual process of bone growth and resorption in balance.

Bone tumors presumably derail this homeostatic process, however, by upregulating RANK-L expression. RANK-L binds to RANK, stimulating the production and activation of osteoclasts (bone cells that increase the breakdown of bone tissue).

OPG counter-regulates RANK-L by blocking its ability to bind to RANK.

Eventual therapeutic interventions may make use of OPG or other RANK-L inhibitors to slow the process of bone destruction in skeletal tumors in cats and dogs, Barger said. Although not a cure, this could reduce the pain and other complications associated with bone cancer. Such therapies have proven effective at reducing pathologic bone loss in human bone cancer patients.

The researchers are the first to verify that the expression of this protein, which worsens the effects of bone cancer in humans, also occurs in cats and dogs with skeletal tumors. Their study appears in the January-February issue of the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.

“Osteosarcoma is much more common in veterinary medicine than in human medicine,” Barger said. “And in dogs it is fairly common.” Other studies have reported a tenfold greater incidence of bone cancer in dogs than in humans.

“Owners often make decisions to euthanize based on pain,” Barger said. “If we can lessen the pain associated with the tumor we can improve the quality of life and the lifespan.”