Notebook: July 2021

News briefs from across the industry and beyond. This month’s articles include: Vet med applicant pool data shows changes, testing a new use for shockwave therapy, parasite vaccine inventor honored, new student AVMA president, bias in veterinary school admission processes, FDA dashboards, new treatment for feline kidney disease, and first veterinary 3D laparoscopic adrenalectomy.

Veterinary Medicine Applicant Pool Data Reflects Changes

New American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) data shows an increase in the number of racially or ethnically underrepresented individuals in veterinary medicine (URVM) in the most recent applicant pool. AAVMC reports that that figure has now climbed to 26.7%. The largest increase was noted among Hispanic and Latinx applicants (12.7%), and African American and Black applicants made up 5.7% of the pool. Among the URVM applicants, 41.8% were first-generation or low-socioeconomic-status students. 40% were from urban backgrounds, 8.6% were from rural backgrounds, and 60% expressed a desire to work in the suburbs. URVM applicants were more likely to report challenges in gaining animal/veterinary medical experiences prior to seeking admission.


Researchers to Test New Use for Shockwave Therapy

Dogs with chronic lower back pain could eventually find relief from a treatment that already exists. Morris Animal Foundation–funded researchers at The Ohio State University recently began a study to evaluate a noninvasive and affordable therapy called extracorporeal shockwave therapy.

Extracorporeal shockwave therapy involves the safe delivery of soundwaves to damaged soft tissue to lessen pain and speed healing. Studies in humans and horses show significant improvement in back pain after treatment. While it has been tried in dogs to stimulate bone healing and manage shoulder tendon injuries, Morris Animal Foundation reports that this is the first official evaluation to assess whether the therapy is effective for lower back pain.

A German shepherd dog receives extracorporeal shockwave therapy from a veterinarian at The Ohio State University

Lower back pain is a leading cause of discomfort and early retirement in working dogs, such as German shepherd dogs who assist in military and police functions. It also afflicts other large breeds and nonworking dogs. While medical or surgical treatment helps many dogs, up to 30% of canine patients fail to improve or have recurrence of symptoms.

“We really don’t have any objective evidence at all for this treatment yet, but if it is effective for pain management, it could really make a difference in these patients’ lives,” said Nina Kieves, DVM, DACVS, DACVSMR, CCRT, assistant professor of Small Animal Orthopedic Surgery at Ohio State. “Right now, we are limited to oral medications or invasive injections into the spinal area, so this could hopefully be an additional treatment option for these dogs.”

If this initial pilot study is successful, Kieves reports that she hopes her findings will inform larger clinical trials in dogs with lower back pain.

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

—­H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama


Ramaswamy Kalyanasundaram, DVM, PhD

Kalyanasundaram Honored for Inventing Vaccine Against Parasites

Ramaswamy Kalyanasundaram, DVM, PhD, was named 2020 Inventor of the Year by the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) for work to develop a vaccine against the human filarial parasite and the dog heartworm parasite.

Kalyanasundaram, a 1977 veterinary graduate of Kerala Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Kerala, India, is assistant dean of research at UIC College of Medicine Rockford, where he is developing a vaccine against lymphatic filariasis, a tropical parasitic infection affecting more than 120 million people worldwide. Few drug treatments are available for the disabling and disfiguring disease, which has a substantial impact in more than 40 countries.

While researching the lymphatic filariasis vaccine in 2017, Kalyanasundaram discovered that the dog heartworm parasite Dirofilaria immitis and the human filarial parasite share 80% genome similarity. He has since completed preliminary studies in mice demonstrating that the vaccine against lymphatic filariasis had 100% efficacy in preventing challenge infection with D. immitis. In 2019, Kalyanasundaram began working with an industry partner to bring the vaccine to the veterinary market.


New Student AVMA President Works to Support Others

Hidayah Martinez-Jaka, a student in the Class of 2022 at the Virginia–Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, is believed to be the first woman of color to serve as Student AVMA (SAVMA) president. She says that, in her role as president, she’s here to support veterinary students.

Hidayah Martinez-Jaka and pet rooster, Sammy

“I see leadership through SAVMA not as a way to benefit myself but to lift other voices up,” Martinez-Jaka said. She was installed as the 2021–2022 SAVMA president during the March 2021 SAVMA Symposium. Martinez-Jaka stated that her overarching goal as president is to serve her fellow veterinary students by creating transparency on all levels in veterinary medicine to grow the value of SAVMA membership. She intends to focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion; mentorship; wellbeing; and student debt.


AAVMC Study Examines Bias in Admissions Processes, Standards

A new American Association of Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) study finds that admission offers from veterinary medical schools tend to be lower or higher for certain groups, indicating that unintended bias still exists despite recent efforts to be more inclusive and adopt more holistic admissions practices. The study recommends that schools focus more attention on overcoming barriers to admission based on factors such as race, ethnicity, gender, culture, or socioeconomic status.

Consultant James W. Lloyd, DVM, PhD, a former veterinary medical school dean, and the AAVMC’s Senior Director of Institutional Research and Diversity Lisa M. Greenhill, EdD, conducted the study, which compiled and analyzed data from the Veterinary Medical College Application Service 2018–2019 cycle postapplication survey and the 2019 postadmissions student survey.

The study’s authors wrote that “these findings signal a very real need to re-examine admission processes. Schools and colleges of veterinary medicine should objectively and rigorously review their admissions processes and reevaluate those elements, such as the number of veterinary, animal, or total experience hours, that may be a source of inherent bias against particular groups of applicants.”


FDA Adds Dashboards to Website

The US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) added five new dashboards to its FDA-TRACK site covering its work on animal food safety; compounded animal drugs; emerging technologies; premarket drug review; and postmarket drug safety, effectiveness, and quality.

  • The Animal Food Safety dashboard includes information about animal food facility inspections, animal food recalls, export certificates, and safety review measures.
  • The Compounded Animal Drugs dashboard tracks CVM’s development and implementation of policies concerning animal drugs that are compounded from bulk drug substances.
  • The CVM’s Veterinary Innovation Program provides greater insight into the regulatory process and supports an efficient pathway to approval for certain emerging technology products that provide a benefit to human or animal health, promote animal wellbeing, or improve food production.
  • The Pre-Market Animal Drug Review dashboard highlights CVM’s Animal Drug Approvals and the process for the 2023 reauthorization of the Animal Drug User Fee Act and Animal Generic Drug User Fee Act.
  • The Post-Market Drug Safety, Effectiveness, and Quality dashboard highlights work performed by CVM to ensure that FDA-approved animal drugs continue to be safe, effective, and manufactured according to quality standards. These actions help the center protect animals and consumers from poor-quality, unsafe, or ineffective animal drugs.

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Researchers Study New Feline Kidney Disease Treatment

In a new study published online by Frontiers in Veterinary Science, Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) researchers tested the effects of a cell-derived molecular therapy to treat kidney fibrosis in cats. They report that regenerative therapies using stem cells and vascular fractions have been tested, but the collection of cells or cell fractions is expensive and time-consuming and requires advanced cell processing capabilities not available in most veterinary general practices.

Alternatively, “the use of cell-based molecules to treat kidney fibrosis may be a promising approach,” said lead author Julie Bennington, DVM, a WFIRM research fellow and PhD candidate. “Current treatments include pharmaceutical therapies and dietary management to slow disease progression and increase longevity, and alternatives are needed.”

In this study, authors used a cell-signaling chemokine, CXCL12, that is produced by cells and stimulates tissue regeneration. The goal of this study was to test the safety, feasibility, and efficacy of ultrasound-guided intrarenal CXCL12 injection in cats with chronic kidney fibrosis, first in a preclinical cat model and then in a pilot study in cats who may have early kidney disease.

“Results of these studies together show that intrarenal injection of CXCL12 may be a potential new therapy to treat early kidney disease in cats with a capability for widespread use,” said coauthor Koudy Williams, DVM, also of WFIRM. Piedmont Animal Health, the company that funded the research, is preparing to set up a clinical pilot study in the United States.


UC Davis Performs First 3D Laparoscopic Adrenalectomy in Veterinary Medicine

Louie, an eight-year-old male Boston terrier, was diagnosed with Cushing’s disease by his primary veterinarian. It was determined that Louie’s Cushing’s disease was caused by a tumor in his right adrenal gland. His primary veterinarians referred Louie to the Soft Tissue Surgery Service at the University of California (UC), Davis, veterinary hospital for surgical removal of his right adrenal gland.

Recently, UC Davis acquired a three-dimensional scope that they report greatly improves on the school’s previous 2D equipment. While this technology is in use for human surgeries, UC Davis veterinarians believe Louie’s procedure to be the first laparoscopic adrenalectomy performed on an animal using 3D technology. Studies on human procedures have shown 3D surgeries to decrease surgical time and surgical errors, and the school’s faculty hope to also see those advantages realized for their veterinary patients.

“I hope this allows us to push the envelope for different types of surgeries that we could consider performing minimally invasively,” said Louie’s surgeon, Ingrid Balsa, DVM. “I think this will also provide a stepping-stone for resident training in regard to learning laparoscopic procedures, which have different instrumentation and techniques compared to traditional open surgeries. The 3D scope will remove one barrier, loss of depth perception, in learning laparoscopy.”

Louie’s Cushing’s disease was cured following a groundbreaking surgery at the UC Davis veterinary hospital

Photo credits: Qvasimodo/iStock via Getty Images Plus, photo courtesy of OSU/Morris Animal Foundation, photo courtesy of UIC College of Medicine Rockford, photo courtesy of Hidayah Martinez-Jaka, GlobalP/iStock via Getty Images Plus, photo courtesy of UC Davis

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