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Drug Therapy May Bridge DM and ALS

March 25, 2013

Dr. Joan Coates, MU veterinary neurologist and professor, was awarded a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke for her work in canine degenerative myelopathy (DM). Coates will treat DM dogs with a drug therapy that is also being used to treat ALS patients in hope of slowing the disease or halting its progression altogether. Dr. Coates is collaborating with Dr. Timothy Miller at Washington University in St. Louis, who is leading a drug therapy clinical trial in ALS patients and on campus she has partnered with MU School of Health Professions professor Dr. Teresa Lever to study swallowing dysfunction in dogs. This research helps to advance the One Health/One Medicine initiative.

Story by College of Veterinary Medicine

Dr. Joan Coates, a veterinary neurologist and professor at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine, was recently awarded a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the National Institutes of Health, to explore a potential therapy for canine degenerative myelopathy. The study involves treating dogs diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy (DM) with a drug therapy that is also being tested in people with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“What we hope to do is slow the disease progression, and ultimately, halt the disease progression,” Coates said.

Coates was part of a team that also includes Dr. Gary Johnson, an associate professor in the MU CVM Department of Veterinary Pathobiology who is involved in genomics research, and investigators at the Broad Institute and Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who established that the same genetic mutation that causes DM in dog also causes some forms of ALS in people. The mutation is wide-spread in the dog population and DM exists in many breeds, such as Pembroke Welsh corgis, Rhodesian ridgebacks, German shepherd dogs, Chesapeake Bay retrievers and boxers. More…