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Scientists are using gene therapy to treat a heart disease in dogs. Could humans be next?

Posted at 12:42 PM, Nov 08, 2019

Scientists are working to eliminate a type of heart disease in dogs using gene therapy.

They're zoning in on a heart condition called mitral valve disease that’s common in 6% of dogs.

Scientists are using Cavalier King Charles spaniels for the research.

They tend to develop it at a younger age.

Scientists at Tufts University have already tested gene therapy in mice.

A virus is injected into them to deliver DNA to cells which causes them to create a protein.

What it essentially does is stops the heart valve from getting thicker, stopping the valve from leaking.

Researchers are now moving on to testing this in dogs.

But they think the treatment could go beyond just canines.

“Many of the dog diseases are naturally occurring and really great models for human disease,” says Dr. Vicky Yang, a veterinary cardiologist and research assistant professor at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. “And I can see this, if it becomes successful in dogs, potentially going into thinking about treatment for humans for mitral valve disease.”

The biotech company behind the treatment agrees. It says it could also expand beyond heart problems.

“I think a larger question, though, is if we are able to prove this thesis of treating aging, making the animal generally healthier, could also treat heart failure, what other diseases could we treat in dogs?” says Daniel Oliver, the CEO of Rejuvenate Bio. “And could we progress this treatment onto past dogs and other animals and possibly humans?”

The gene therapy would only be used for dogs just starting to experience heart problems.

Researchers still need to make sure the gene therapy is safe for all breeds before they make it available to the public.