View Full Version : Syringomyelia Research for Dogs helping Humans

29th December 2010, 04:02 PM
I am trying to put together some information for my blog and also give it to another blogger who actually has more people read it (not just Cavalier owners).

I read Dr. Rusbridge article on http://www.asap.org/index.php/medical-articles/canine-syringomyelia/

and wanted to know if there is anything to add to this:

How does this help human sufferers? There are many possibilities:

Understanding the genetics. Chiari malformation is inherited in this breed and, if the causal gene or genes could be identified, then scientists could study what this gene does and why Chiari malformation and syringomyelia develop. Clare Rusbridge and her team, with considerable help from Cavalier breed clubs and owners, have established a worldwide DNA collection from affected dogs and their families. They now have over 800 samples and are working with a neurogenetics laboratory in Montreal with the ultimate aim of finding the gene(s).
Better understanding of the symptoms. Why are some dogs/people so much more painful than others? Why do some not make the expected improvement after surgery? Why do some patients have an intensification of pain after surgery? These are all questions that study of the dogs could help answer.
Understanding how and why syringomyelia develops. In some litters of Cavalier puppies, it is highly likely that most will develop syringomyelia. These dogs could be studied, i.e., with serial MRI scans from an early age before and after the syringomyelia has developed. As a natural model of Chiari malformation, these dogs can provide useful information
Improving treatment of both people and dogs. Better understanding of the disease leads to the possibility of more effective drugs and surgery. The Cavaliers in question are loved pets and are cared for by veterinary neurologists. They vastly outnumber human patients so there is a greater possibility to learn from successful experiences and apply these to humans. Similarly, human sufferers can provide dog owners with an understanding of what their pets can be experiencing and ensure they are provided with care.
Syringomyelia is a devastating disease in both dogs and humans. We hope that the veterinary and medical professions working together on this devastating disease can help man and his best friend"

Obviously if people know the research may also benefit humans as well as other breeds. We can reach a bigger donation pool :xfngr: or even to raise awareness on its on is good.

Karlin, Nicki, Tania, can you give me more information or is this pretty much the most up to date. This was not found on the American Syringomyelia & Chiari Alliance Project.

Kate H
29th December 2010, 08:51 PM
The Ann Conroy Trust in the UK supports human sufferers from Chiari Malformation and SM. Because the dog genetic code is very close to that of humans, the Trust are very supportive of canine research, which could shed light on the disease in humans. At their conference a couple of years ago they organised an evening for Cavalier people, with talks and a panel discussion by the leading UK and US researchers, and earlier this year they gave 6000 to the Montreal genetic research programme.

As to the effects of frusemide, it is difficult to prove whether it prevents syrinxes getting any larger, because they may not have enlarged anyway. There seems to be some indication that if used very early on, they can reduce the size of a syrinx. I think Clare Rusbridge mentions this either on her own website or in one of the reports she provided for the Cavalier Club website. Given that the Chiari Malformation makes it difficult for the body to handle the cerebro-spinal fluid properly (ie it gets backed up in the ventricles and creates syrinxes) it would seem logical to reduce the amount of CSF in the body - which is what the diuretic does. This is, I presume, why the prescribing of a diuretic like frusemide is standard procedure.

My Oliver has very enlarged ventricles which create pressure behind his eyes (especially his left eye) and give him headaches in strong sunlight (and in snow light I have just discovered). Since being on frusemide, these have improved, but this could be (a) because I am now careful to keep him out of strong sunlight, or (b) he is also on gabapentin, which may deal with the headaches. I am hoping to take him for his third (non-anaesthesia) mini-scan in the spring because I want to see if the frusemide has made any difference to the size of his ventricles, or whether it is simply better management and gabapentin which are preventing his headaches. His actual syrinx is still very small, although it did double in size in the year between his first and second scans (when he was 7 and 8 years old). It will be interesting to see whether it has continued to grow (albeit very slowly) or whether it has stayed the same size (which may or may not be due to his daily dose of frusemide - but as said above, difficult to prove because at 9.5 years his syrinx might not have grown anyway; Nick Jeffery, the researcher at Cambridge University, was surprised that it had grown at all in an older dog with very few symptoms).

Hope that helps,

Kate, Oliver and Aled