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Jason Eberly / Marc Vasquez, Geoff Howe Marketing Communications for Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc.
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Michael Burke, Morris Animal Foundation
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Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. Provides Morris Animal Foundation with Feline Research Gift
SNP Data Could Pave the Way for Future Breakthroughs in Feline Veterinary Medicine
TOPEKA, Kan. (July 20, 2008) – When Harpsie's family noticed he was lethargic, breathing heavily and had stopped eating the veterinarian recommended allergy pet food, they took the 14-year-old male Persian to see his veterinarian. After extensive investigation, Harpsie was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer that had spread to his lungs. Because of his rapidly deteriorating health, Harpsie's owners made the tough decision to end his suffering.1
Harpsie's story is all too common. Every day, veterinarians and their health care teams treat disorders that vary from obesity, skin allergies and urinary tract infections to more complex diseases like cancer and diabetes.2 While cures for these diseases are not yet available, a noteworthy donation from Hill's may lead to new diagnostic and therapeutic options that will allow earlier and more effective treatment.
Hill's has made significant investments in nutrigenomic technology to identify ingredients that will enhance functional pet food products. As part of this continuing research, Hill's recently completed a project that generated extensive feline genome sequence data using DNA samples from seven cats of different breeds and both genders. This DNA sequencing effort identified more than three million feline Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms or SNPs (pronounced "snips"). SNPs are small deviations from the common feline DNA sequence that can be used as markers to track down the genes responsible for genetic diseases. Hill's donated the entire collection of feline SNPs to the Morris Animal Foundation (MAF), the world's largest nonprofit foundation dedicated to funding humane research studies to benefit companion animals and wildlife.
"Recognizing the potential value of the SNPs information to feline researchers, Hill's made the decision to make the entire SNPs database available to the veterinary research community through the Morris Animal Foundation," said Debra Nichols, Ph.D., vice president, Science and Technology at Hill's. Donating the feline SNPs data to the MAF ensures its availability to qualified investigators who conduct ethical, scientifically sound research that will ultimately advance feline health care. This data also gives researchers a foundation for developing a future SNP genotyping platform. "It's a major head start for conducting genetic association studies that could one day help veterinarians better understand and diagnose diseases in our feline patients," said Janet Donlin, D.V.M., chief of the veterinary business channel at Hill's.
Cats and humans share 250 genetic diseases, and this donation could lead to discoveries that affect human health.3 "The domestic cat has served as a powerful model for hereditary human disease patterns and for numerous fatal infectious disease agents related to human pathogens," said Gregg Dean, D.V.M., Ph.D., professor of immunopathology at North Carolina State University. "The Hill's donation of feline SNP data has the potential of paving the way for future developments which may make a major contribution to many areas of feline genetics and biology."
Earlier this year, Hill's made a $1 million commitment to the Morris Animal Foundation and a portion of the funds will be used to establish a Coalition for Feline Genomic Research that will utilize the SNPs donation in studying biochemical differences between healthy and unhealthy cats.
Patricia Olson, D.V.M., Ph.D., president and CEO of MAF comments on cats being slighted in health research funding and veterinary care, "It is a sad irony that cats are the most popular pet in our country, yet far too little research funding and veterinary care is being provided to meet cat's unique health needs. Thanks to this Hill's donation to the Morris Animal Foundation cats will be given a dramatically better opportunity for a long healthy life."
It is the hope that with increased understanding of feline genetic markers, diseases like the cancer Harpsie faced, could be easier to detect and allow treatment at the earliest possible stage.
Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. manufactures Hill's® Prescription Diet® brand pet foods, therapeutic pet foods available only through veterinarians, and Hill's® Science Diet® brand pet foods sold through veterinarians and finer pet specialty stores. Founded more than 60 years ago with a unique commitment to pet nutrition and well-being, Hill's is committed to its mission to help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets. Hill's produces high-quality, great-tasting pet foods owners can trust and give to their canine and feline companions as part of a veterinary health care team recommendation. This ultimately improves patient health and the health of the practice. For more information about Hill's Pet Nutrition Inc. and Hill's Evidence-Based Clinical Nutrition™ visit HillsVet.com.
1 Harpsie's Web site, Home of the Walking Encyclopedia. http://www.harpsie.com. Accessed: May 20, 2008. Copyright © Harpsie's Site 2005-2008.
2 VPI Pet Insurance Web site. Top 10 Reasons Pets Visit Vets. Available at: http://www.petinsurance.com/healthzone/Top-10-Reasons.aspx. Accessed May 5, 2008.
3 University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine Web site. An Unassuming Missouri Cat Is the Archetype For Feline-Human Scientific Research Worldwide. Available at: http://vetmed.missouri.edu/News/cat-genome.htm. Accessed: June 17, 2008.
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