The following activities will be undertaken under the JHU Discovery Award:
- Activity #1: Summit On Animals, Public Health, and Ethics
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As a kick-off event to begin the collaborative process, to announce our intention to begin interdisciplinary work in this area, and develop a roadmap for the collaborative activity, GIRAPHE will organize and host a summit to explore a range of topical areas related to animals, public health, and ethics. Following the summit, the group will have a closed meeting with summit speakers, panelists and additional invited JHU faculty to develop a plan for future activities and projects. The group will follow up on the summit with a retreat to develop more in-depth faculty collaborations, and potential funding sources, as well as establishing a seminar series to further highlight topics for potential deeper analysis and collaboration.
- Activity #2: Establishing Necessity Criteria for Use of Animals in Research
A project already identified by the members of GIRAPHE is to critically evaluate the necessity of the use of current animal models for biomedical research, drawing on the approach used in the IOM study of the necessity of using chimpanzees in research (IOM, 2011). The approach to this project would be to identify and convene a committee of experts from relevant disciplinary perspectives (basic science researchers, veterinary medicine, institutional animal research oversight, animal ethics and policy, etc.) to develop a set of generalizable criteria to be met to establish the necessity for using non-human animal models to study human disease. Since many non-human primates and dogs are used in pharmaceutical research, drug development and safety testing, and other research, it is important to address the necessity for the use of these animals separate from federal regulatory requirements for using non-rodent species in drug testing. We are requesting funds for research support on this project by a doctoral student, who will begin to evaluate the scientific and ethics literature, help identify appropriate experts to invite to participate on the expert committee, and otherwise support the project. Additional funds to launch the expert committee process will be sought from private donors and government and foundation sources.
- Activity #3: Companion Animals in the Study of Human and Animal Diseases
Related to the evaluation of animal models for research, we plan to include a collaborative project on the use of companion animals as bridges for randomized controlled trials (e.g., Rowell et al., 2011). Presently, over 450 diseases are recognized in domesticated dogs with over 360 of these diseases having analogous disease in humans. Moreover, pets with these diseases may receive many concurrent medications akin to what occurs in our patient population. These models may prove to be better than our current models in which disease conditions are artificially induced in laboratory animal species.
GIRAPHE will undertake a pilot project using a spontaneous model of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) – a form of heart failure – common in Doberman pinscher dogs. The project will use a new Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (MRS) method developed at Hopkins (Bottomley et al., 2013) to assess whether we detect heart failure earlier than traditional methods of ECG monitoring for unusual heart rhythms or echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart). Using this new detection method, a canine clinical trial will be initiated to determine whether regenerative medicine therapy with stem cells using a novel image-guided delivery approach to the heart can be used pre-emptively to treat heart failure in at-risk Doberman pinscher dogs. By using more realistic models of disease, we hope to develop therapies that will be more successful in treating disease in both pets and humans.