Diabetes treatments benefit animals, too

August 16, 2010 by  
Filed under DIABETES

Diabetes used to be a death sentence. Until 1922 when insulin was discovered, extracted from pancreas of dogs. With insulin, diabetes became manageable. Dogs and other animals have been and are still being used in biomedical research for developing and testing new drugs for humans. Animal rights activists are of course not happy with this state of affairs. A recent report from the University of Missouri (MU) however indicates that it is not only human beings who benefit from the fruit of biomedical research but man’s best friend and other animals as well.

MU researchers have tested a continuous glucose monitoring device commonly used in humans with diabetes in animals and found the device to be helpful in treating dogs and other animals. The device is implanted under the skin between the shoulder blades of the animal.

According to Charles Wiedmeyer, assistant professor of clinical pathology in the MU College of Veterinary Medicine.

“Our research has found that continuous glucose monitoring devices can be used in dogs, cats, cows and horses. Use of this system alleviated the need for multiple blood samples. It also reduces the stress associated with obtaining those samples. This system may provide greater monitoring capabilities in animals with diabetes and promote the diagnostic and research potential of glucose monitoring in veterinary patients.”

The device records blood glucose data every five minutes and provides a detailed blood glucose profile of an animal for several days. The data obtained with the device are invaluable in managing diabetes in pets especially in determining the proper dosage of insulin and in controlling sugar levels through proper diet.

These all sound very familiar to those who are suffering from diabetes because the disease manifestations in humans and in animals are very similar.

“Many of the symptoms of diabetes in dogs are similar to the symptoms in humans, including excessive water consumption, increased urination, or unexplained weight loss. For dogs, treatment typically involves insulin shots twice a day. Dogs get complications from diabetes, but they are not as severe as human complications. Older, female dogs and some breeds, such as schnauzers and poodles, are more prone to diabetes.”

Dogs, however, are more like little children rather than adults with diabetes because they have little control over their insulin and diet. They need to rely on their owners/caregivers on glycemic control, thus making easy and convenient glucose monitoring invaluable.

The glucose monitoring device specially designed for animals is manufactured by Medtronics.

Dogs as diagnostic tools to sniff out cancers

June 9, 2010 by  
Filed under CANCER

A dog is man’s best friends in more ways than one. So why not in helping humans in detecting cancer? I already have previously reported the use of dogs as animal sensors in “sniffing out” cancer. This strange but rather useful and non-invasive form of diagnostics is based on the fact that dogs and other animals have highly developed olfactory sense and that certain types of cancer produce biochemicals not found in healthy individuals. More and more research studies are focusing on animal sensors and I hereby bring you the latest research updates.

Sniffing out prostate cancer

In a more recent study, French researchers from the Tenon Hospital in Paris report that dogs can be trained to “sniff out” prostate cancer. The researchers used a Belgian Malinois, a breed of shepherd dog that is also trained to sniff out bombs in their study. The dog was trained to distinguish between urine samples of healthy volunteers and prostate cancer patients. The theory is that the urine of cancer patients contains volatile organic compounds not found in urine of healthy individuals. These unique chemicals can be detected by dogs, animals which have very keen sense of smell. The researchers claim that this method of detecting prostate cancer is more reliable than the current standard method of testing for prostate-specific antigens (PSA). The process of training dogs took about a year. However, the researchers aim to take the research one step further. They want to identify those chemicals that the dogs detect, and then use them to develop an “electronic nose” that can eventually replace animal sensors.
The researchers presented their results at the American Urological Association meeting in San Francisco last week.

Sniffing out lung cancer

Similarly, unique chemicals seem to be present in the breath of lung cancer patients that may be detectable by animal sensors. However, recent research results suggest that cancer-specific chemicals are also present in the urine of lung cancer patients, which makes diagnostics even easier. The researchers demonstrated the potential for this diagnostic tool in mice, using mice with and without lung cancer as well trained senor mice. According to study author Dr. Steven M. Albelda of the William Maul Measey Professor of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine:

“Finding new ways to screen for early lung cancers in patients at risk, such as smokers, is one of the best ways we have to reduce the high death rate from this disease,” Using the same chemical approaches as in this paper, we hope to be able to detect odors in urine of smokers that could be used to identify lung cancer at a very early stage.”

The next step might be to try training dogs to do what the mice can do.

Sniiffing out ovarian cancer

Swedish researchers have reported that ovarian cancer also comes with its unique set of cancer biochemicals. Furthermore, these chemicals even differ from other types of gynaecological problems such as endometriosis or cervical cancer. These chemicals manifest as odor or scent which dogs can detect. The researchers also report that dogs can sniff out these chemicals in even in early and low-grade ovarian cancers that might be overlooked during standard diagnostic procedures. According to Dr. Keith I. Block, editor-in-chief of the journal Integrative Cancer Therapies:

“I believe there is great value in this study, which adds to the growing body of research suggesting the diagnostic skills of these specially trained dogs. Their ability to detect specific odors associated with chemicals related to malignancy should eventually lead to effective methods and tools for very early detection, and thus a greater proportion of cancer cures!”

Tumor sniffers: training dogs to detect cancer

July 8, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

dog

A dog is a man’s best friend. Aside from this role, however, dogs also act as nurses to people with disabilities. So why not dogs detecting health problems?

Dogs have one of the most sensitive sense of smell among animals. But can they be trained to smell the scent of cancer accurately? Two research centers claim they have achieved this.

Pine Street Clinic, California

(Source: New York Times):

The clinic claims it has successfully trained 5 cancer-sniffing dogs consisting of three Labradors and two Portuguese water dogs. These dogs are supposedly able to detect lung cancer by sniffing the breath of the patients – with 99 percent accuracy! Their report was met with amazement (astounding!) as well as scepticism (too good to be true!).

According to Dr. Ted Gansler, director of medical content in health information for the American Cancer Society:

“It’s biologically plausible, but there has to be a lot more study and confirmation of effectiveness.”

The trained dogs were from different sources: from owners as well as from Guide Dogs for the Blind. The training was similar to that when dogs are trained to detect bombs, as follows:

The clinic collected breath samples in plastic tubes filled with polypropylene wool from 55 people just after biopsies found lung cancer and from 31 patients with breast cancer, as well as from 83 healthy volunteers. The tubes were numbered, and then placed in plastic boxes and presented to the dogs, five at a time. If the dog smelled cancer, it was supposed to sit.For breath from lung cancer patients, Mr. McCulloch reported, the dogs correctly sat 564 times and incorrectly 10 times.

Cancer and Bio-detection Dogs, UK

(Source: National Geographic News)

This non-profit cancer organization trains dogs to detect bladder cancer by sniffing urine samples. Here is how the dogs were trained: 8 urine samples were placed in a carousel and the dog has to sniff out the sample from a cancerous bladder. When it detects the cancerous sample successfully, the dog gets a food treat as a reward.

According to Claire Guest, head of the cancer center:

“Now that we know that dogs are able to detect human disease by its odor, and that different diseases have different odors, the potential is just incredible to help individuals with life-threatening conditions but also to have new ways of looking at diagnosis of life-threatening diseases such as cancer.”

So how do these amazing animals do it?

It is a known fact that tumors release very small amounts of compounds (e.g. alkanes and benzene derivatives) which are not in healthy tissues. The dogs highly sensitive olfactory nerves seem to be able to detect minute amounts (in parts-per-billion!) of these abnormal compounds in the breath, skin, and urine of cancer victims.

According to dog trainer Rob Harris

“Dogs have a highly-developed sense of smell. Their nose is in use every day. We just use that part of their nose to help us identify the odor of cancer.”

Also check out: dogs can detect (and therefore warn of) a hypoglycemic attack in patients with diabetes!

 

Photo credit: stock.xchng

Osteoarthritis in canines: biomarker research gives hope to dog owners

June 11, 2009 by  
Filed under ARTHRITIS

dogIt is not only humans who suffer from osteoarthritis. Animals such as horses and dogs can have it as well. Osteoarthritis is a disease characterized by degradation of the articular cartilage, that results in pain, inflammation and loss of motion in the joint.

And like humans, animals also suffer from pain and restricted mobility that the disease brings.

Researchers at the University of Missouri have been searching for a feasible biomarker for risk of developing osteoarthritis and they might just have found one that works for dogs as well. According to James Cook, professor of veterinary medicine and surgery, and the William & Kathryn Allen Distinguished Professor in Orthopedic Surgery

“By developing methods for earlier diagnosis of osteoarthritis, prevention or even curative treatment strategies to manage the disease become more realistic. Biomarkers could detect the disease before pain and swelling occurs, and owners could take preventative measures, such as modifying activities or diet, helping their pets lose weight and strengthen their joints, to reduce the likelihood of their dogs developing osteoarthritis.”

The researchers looked for potential biomarkers in the synovial fluid, the fluid that lubricates the joints. It is believed that the synovial fluid responds rapidly to damage to the joints. The By taking samples from dogs, UM researchers found that the quantity and quality of synovial fluid exhibited some marked changes in canine patients with injured stifle joints. This is the joint in the hind limbs of dogs that is the equivalent joint to the human knee.

“At the MU Comparative Orthopaedic Laboratory, we are particularly interested in identification and validation of biomarkers that can detect early stages of osteoarthritis to provide accurate diagnostic and prognostic information prior to the onset of clinical disease for people and for pets,” Cook said. “Our team, led by Drs. Kuroki, Stoker and Garner, is making tremendous progress in developing simple tests on blood, urine and synovial fluid that show great promise for helping us diagnose impending osteoarthritis before it is too late to help the patient in the most effective manner.”

Like in humans, osteoarthritis in dogs is associated with age. It is estimated that 20% of middle-aged dogs and 90%of older dogs have osteoarthritis in one or more joints. In humans, the incidence is even much higher.

Photo credit: stock.xchng

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.