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Featured Profile: Dennis O’Brien


Dennis Obrien

Dr. Dennis O’Brien’s neurological research is producing health improvements for dogs and their owners.

A few years back, two pups from a litter of Dachshunds from Pennsylvania came to the University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center because they were not doing well. O’Brien diagnosed the pups with Batten Disease. This hereditary neurodegenerative illness, which is found not only in dogs but in human children, leads to vision loss, decline in cognitive and motor function, seizures and eventually death. O’Brien worked with collaborators at the School of Medicine who developed a therapy that considerably delayed the onset and progression of symptoms in dogs, a sign that a similar solution could be developed for children suffering with this disease.

As part of a team of researchers, O’Brien has also investigated other hereditary brain disorders, mapping the entire genome of affected dogs to nd the mutation responsible. These include polymicrogyria, which causes vision loss and seizures in Poodles and a progressive paralysis in Black Russian Terrier puppies. His work benefits the breed by giving breeders the tools to eliminate hereditary disease, as well as broader advances in canine medicine.

Recently, O’Brien led a team of researchers in identifying a mutation in canine brain cells which causes a hereditary form of Parkinson’s disease in dogs. The mutation is thought to be the same as the gene that causes a similar disease in humans. The discovery could aid human medical researchers in identifying treatments for Parkinson’s.

Dr. Dennis O’Brien is a professor of veterinary neurology in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

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Related Initiative(s):
One Health/One Medicine