Notebook: May 2021

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include: new stem cell therapy in dogs, NAVTA announces Veterinary Technician of the Year, a more detailed dog reference genome, chemo-free cancer treatment, and more.

NB_01.pngNew Stem Cell Therapy in Dogs

Scientists at Japan’s Osaka Prefecture University have developed a novel method to induce stem cell generation from the blood samples of dogs. Through this technique, the scientists hope to advance regenerative therapies in veterinary medicine. The findings are published in the journal Stem Cells and Development.

The research team, led by associate professor Shingo Hatoya, has been working on isolating induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from canine blood samples. iPSCs are a type of stem cell that can be “programmed” from a developed cell by introducing a specific set of genes into them. Hatoya highlights the significance of these findings for veterinary science, stating he hopes that in the near future “it may be possible to perform regenerative medicinal treatments in dogs.”

Study Finds That Dogs Synchronize Their Behavior with Children, Not So Much with Adults

A study from Oregon State University found that dogs synchronize their behavior with the children in their family, more so than they do with adults. The paper was recently published in the journal Animal Cognition.

The university reports that the findings are important because there is a growing body of evidence that dogs can help children in many ways, including with social development, increasing physical activity, managing anxiety, or as a source of attachment in the face of changing family structures, the researchers said. Yet, they say, very little research has focused on how dogs perceive and socially engage with children.


“The great news is that this study suggests dogs are paying a lot of attention to the kids that they live with,” said Oregon State animal behaviorist Monique Udell, PhD, MS, CAAB, the lead author of the study. “They are responsive to them and, in many cases, behaving in synchrony with them, indicators of positive affiliation and a foundation for building strong bonds.”

Based on this study, Udell also offered some takeaways for families with children and dogs.

“What we are finding is that kids are very capable of training dogs, and that dogs are paying attention to the kids and can learn from them,” she said. “Sometimes we don’t give children and dogs enough credit. Our research suggests that with some guidance we can provide important and positive learning experiences for our kids and our dogs starting at a much earlier age, something that can make a world of difference [in] the lives of both.”


“Happiness depends more on the inward disposition of mind than on outward circumstances.”

—­Benjamin Franklin, writer, philosopher, politician, scientist. inventor, and diplomat

NAVTA Announces Veterinary Tech of the Year

Dru Mellon, RVT, CVT, of Layton, Utah’s Mountain West Veterinary Specialists was awarded the 2020 Veterinary Technician of the Year by the National Association of Veterinary Technicians in America (NAVTA). The award is presented to a NAVTA member who has provided leadership and contributed to the association and the overall betterment of the industry.

In a release, NAVTA stated that Mellon was chosen because he exemplifies what it means to be a veterinary technician. He is involved in the Utah Society of Veterinary Technicians and Assistants (USVTA), currently serving on the board.

His greatest accomplishment, in the eyes of the NAVTA board, was his work with the Utah Veterinary Medical Association, USVTA, the Veterinary Nurse Initiative, and NAVTA to bring veterinary technician credentialing to the state of Utah. In a release, NAVTA stated that because of Mellen’s efforts, the state passed a law to offer credentialing not only to graduates of veterinary programs but through two alternative routes.

More Detailed Dog Reference Genome to Aid Studies of Heritable Diseases

United Press International reported that scientists have taken advantage of improvements in genomic sequencing technology to produce a newer, more detailed dog reference genome. The new reference genome measures 2.8 gigabases in length, which means the sequence contains 2.8 billion base pairs. Each base pair features two complementary DNA bases.

A detailed reference genome is an important tool for geneticists, and scientists expect the new, more complete dog reference genome—the findings were published in the open-access journal Communications Biology—to aid investigations of the links between DNA and health problems in both dogs and humans.

The first dog reference genome was produced during the early 2000s. At the time, sequencing technology was capable of sequencing only a few hundred base pairs at a time. The sequencing process was slow-going and required large amounts of computing power.

Through the use of so-called short-read genomic sequencing technology, researchers were only able to produce a sparsely transcribed reference genome. The original reference genome featured lots of large gaps—long stretches of missing DNA code. For the new study, researchers deployed long-read genomic sequencing technology to reduce the number of gaps in the reference genome from 23,000 to just 585.

Chemo-Free Cancer Treatment Method Sees Promising Success

For the past 10 years, a team of University of Missouri (UM) veterinary researchers has collaborated with a medical biotechnology company to design a clinical trial for an immunotherapy cancer treatment for dogs.

Osteosarcoma is a common bone cancer that affects about 10,000 dogs a year. This type of cancer affects both humans and dogs similarly, but it is 10 times more common in dogs than in humans, said researcher Jeffrey Bryan, DVM, a professor in the UM College of Veterinary Medicine. The common treatment is chemotherapy, but it is rarely curative in dogs and has proved to mainly delay the recurrence of the cancer, Bryan said. About 90% of the time or more, the dog still ends up dying of the cancer.

Bryan and a veterinary oncology team worked with ELIAS Animal Health to design a trial around a new immunotherapy treatment. The experimental treatment prompts the immune system to recognize and kill the cancer cells. The first clinical trial has just been completed and included 10 dogs who successfully received the entire treatment, Bryan said.

ELIAS is only offering this treatment on an experimental, commercial basis, but owners can pay to have the treatment on a dog at an ELIAS lab. They are also conducting a larger follow-up clinical trial.

FDA Provides Conditional Approval of Potassium Bromide

For many years, both potassium bromide (KBr) and phenobarbital (PB) have been used in human and veterinary medicine as antiseizure medications. Despite both drugs’ long history of common use, neither is fully approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to control seizures in people or animals.

However, in January, the FDA conditionally approved KBroVet-CA1 (potassium bromide chewable tablets) to control seizures in dogs with idiopathic epilepsy. The drug is a halide salt, and when the salt passes through neuronal channels, it hyperpolarizes neuronal membranes and stabilizes the neurons. This stabilization reduces the likelihood of a seizure.

The initial conditional approval is valid for one year with the potential for four annual renewals. During this time, the drug company must show active progress toward collecting the remaining effectiveness data needed for full approval. The drug company must get the drug fully approved within five years of the initial conditional approval or it will no longer be in effect—the company would have to stop marketing the drug because it would be considered an unapproved animal drug.

IDEXX and the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine Announce Initiative

The IDEXX Foundation, a division of IDEXX Laboratories, Inc., will contribute $3.6 million over six years to the Tuskegee University College of Veterinary Medicine (TUCVM). In a release, IDEXX stated that the support is part of a larger effort to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in veterinary medicine.

The TUCVM is the only veterinary medical professional program in the United States located on the campus of a historically Black college or university. The school educates 70% of African-American veterinarians. The initiative includes nine full scholarships, mental health support for veterinary students, emergency funding for students in need, and monies for capital improvements at the TUCVM facilities.

“This is the most impactful contribution that our beloved college has received in our 75 years of existence and recognizes our legacy of work training and educating students of color,” said Ruby L. Perry, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVR, dean of the TUCVM. “This meaningful investment by the IDEXX Foundation will help our students realize their dreams of becoming veterinarians.”

Ohio State Researchers Use Environmental Surveillance to Identify Future Pandemic Threats

Researchers at The Ohio State University are working to characterize the SARS-CoV-2 virus in environments outside of humans. Vanessa L. Hale, DVM, assistant professor of veterinary preventive medicine at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine, along with peers from the Infectious Disease Institute and Center of Microbiome Science, is coordinating investigative efforts.

The university-wide program is known as eSCOUT: Environmental Surveillance for COVID-19 in Ohio: Understanding Transmission. Together, these experts are testing pets, farm animals, and wildlife and examining samples in the lab. The goal is to identify whether the virus exists in different animal populations and the likelihood that those animals could harbor mutations and potentially pass COVID-19 back to humans in a new form.

“Pandemics really highlight One Health, which is human health, animal health, and environmental health. Veterinarians, as well as environmental microbiologists, wildlife biologists, and epidemiologists, are really essential to understanding the whole dynamic of a pandemic,” Hale said.

New Antimicrobial Resistance Resource for Veterinarians

A new online guide codeveloped by the University of Sydney will allow veterinarians, pet owners, farmers, and the community to make informed choices about treating animal infections.

The authors relate that staph infections in dogs and pneumonia in horses are among the infections seen in veterinary practice that are affected by increases in antimicrobial resistance. Their new resource aims to promote best-practice management of diseases to reduce the likelihood of developing antimicrobial resistance. Developed by researchers from the University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science and Charles Sturt University Veterinary School, the resource is available online at, free of charge.

“The aim of the website and learning resources is to improve veterinary awareness of antimicrobial resistance, promote best-practice antimicrobial drug prescription, and therefore aid disease management,” cocreator Professor Jacqueline Norris said.

FDA Announces New Clinical Field Study Resource for Veterinarians

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced a listing of clinical field studies that are investigating animal cells, tissues, and cell- and tissue-based products (ACTPs) in veterinary patients. The webpage ( provides animal owners, veterinarians, researchers, and the public with information on clinical field studies that are being investigated for the use of ACTPs in veterinary patients.

In a release, the FDA stated that they are offering this webpage as a resource because they have heard from veterinarians and pet owners who are eager to take part in clinical studies and avail their patients and pets of the potential that veterinary regenerative medicine may offer.

Photo credits: luismmolina/E+ via Getty Images, Photo courtesy of Dru Mellon, Tetiana Lazunova/iStock via Getty Images Plus, Ivan Martynov/iStock via Getty Images Plus, FatCamera/E+ via Getty Images, CraigRJD/iStock via Getty Images Plus, sanjeri/E+ via Getty Images



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