Professor Brian Catchpole and Dr Lucy Davison have been awarded a grant by Petplan Charitable Trust for "Life, death and immortality of insulin-producing pancreatic beta cells: a genomic approach".
Canine diabetes mellitus affects around 1 in 300 dogs in the UK. The condition results from destruction of specialised insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, known as beta cells. As a result of permanent beta cell loss, diabetic dogs are unable to control their blood glucose without daily insulin injections from their owners. Certain dog breeds (e.g. Samoyed) are especially susceptible to diabetes. In contrast, some breeds (e.g. Boxer) are extremely resistant to the condition. Diabetes-resistant dog breeds are also more susceptible to beta cell tumours (a condition known as insulinoma). These observations suggests that there is a strong genetic component to beta cell health and survival in dogs.
Our research aims to reveal new targets for treatment or prevention of canine diabetes and / or insulinoma, by investigating the genetic basis of these diseases. Insulinoma and diabetes may share genetic risk factors since both conditions are associated with changes in beta cell health and survival. We will use a technique called whole genome sequencing to compare all the genetic variations present in high diabetes-risk breeds such as a the Samoyed to those in low diabetes-risk breeds such at the Boxer. We will also study genetic variations in Boxers with insulinoma to understand more about why beta cells are so well equipped to survive in this breed.
Another particularly important part of this work is the assembly of a collaborative expert steering panel for the project, meeting 3-4 times yearly, to drive forward and catalyse research in canine diabetes. This panel includes expertise from a number of institutions including the Royal Veterinary College, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, The Animal Health Trust, The University of Glasgow and the University of Manchester. The panel will be known as the Canine Diabetes Genetics Partnership, and meetings will be supported by Dechra.
This research will greatly improve our understanding of the genetic factors impacting on susceptibility to canine diabetes and insulinoma. We anticipate that this knowledge will allow us to explore new therapeutic or preventative targets in these conditions, which will improve the quality of life and survival of affected dogs.