A special research focus on dogs

The Baker Institute for Animal Health has played a historic role in improving the health and well-being of dogs. Three new collaborative projects at the Institute hope to enhance our understanding of how the canine immune system works, the causes and possible fixes for inherited diseases, and discover new treatments for a common form of canine cancer.

Development of single-cell sequencing technology to identify paired variable regions of canine B cell receptors and T cell receptors during viral infection

Faculty participants: Elia Tait Wojno, John S. L. Parker, Gerlinde Van de Walle, Douglas F. Antczak, Charles Danko, Colin R. Parrish

During infections in dogs, cats, humans, and other animals, the immune system deploys B cells and T cells that are specifically adapted to attack the invading microorganism. However, in dogs, little is known about how B cells or T cells specific for a particular virus or other microorganism are mobilized to attack. This team of Baker faculty members will use a new technology called Drop-seq to analyze how individual B and T cells from canine blood samples regulate their genes to turn the information in their DNA into anti-viral action. The answers could help scientists develop better vaccines to help the canine immune system fight disease.

Identifying the molecular basis of canine genetic disorders and developing preventive therapies

Faculty participants: Vicki Meyers-Wallen, Alexander J. Travis, Charles Danko

After more than a century of intensive breeding, the domestic dog is saddled with an unusually high incidence of inherited diseases. To help alleviate the burden of these disorders, this trio of faculty members will undertake a collaborative project in which they will curate and publish information about dog development and maps of genome function that may help identify genes involved in canine inherited diseases. They are also testing the possibilities of preventing genetic diseases in dogs using gene repair approaches and in vitro fertilization.

Development of novel targeted therapies for treating malignant solid tumors in dogs

Faculty participants: Scott Coonrod, Gerlinde Van de Walle, Charles Danko

Hemangiosarcoma is a common form of cancer in dogs but there are very few drugs that have been found to extend the life of these afflicted animals, and the average survival time after diagnosis is only about three to four months. The Baker faculty involved in this project are working together to identify new drugs for treating these dogs to ensure their tumors don’t come back after they have been surgically removed. Using tumor samples taken from canine patients at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals, they plan to identify the genes responsible for driving hemangiosarcoma tumor growth and then test the anti-tumor effects of drugs tailored to strike the products of those genes. In parallel, the team will test the effectiveness of a group of drugs called PAD inhibitors, which have been proven to block mammary tumor growth in dogs.