MAR 17, 2015 10:58 PM PDT

Heart Disease in Dogs and Humans

Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death in humans, but are also a major cause of death in dogs.

In dogs, mitral valve disease (MVD), which affects 70% of dogs past age ten, is the leading killer of man's best friend. Mitral valves in the heart deteriorate, causing blood to leak and keeping the heart from pumping efficiently. The condition can then progress to congestive heart failure. Similar problems are a major cause for heart valve replacement or repair ion humans.

Professor Mark Oyama of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine believes that serotonin is involved in the genesis of MVD. "Serotonin is well known for being a neurotransmitter that affects mood, but it is also involved in the growth and regulation of other parts of the body. We have good evidence indicating that components of serotonin pathways are activated in degenerating heart valves," Oyama said.

Dogs thought to be at high risk for developing MVD typically have high levels of serum serotonin. Conversely, humans taking drugs containing serotonin experience increased risk of heart valve disease.

Oyama believes that serotonin blockers in heart valves could halt or reverse MVD. The Veterinary Medical School will be working with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia to study compounds for serotonin blocking abilities. Resulting drugs will be evaluated in dogs and eventually in humans.

"If we're able to develop a drug that works in dogs, it will have clear and important implications for human health," Oyama said.
About the Author
  • Ilene Schneider is the owner of Schneider the Writer, a firm that provides communications for health care, high technology and service enterprises. Her specialties include public relations, media relations, advertising, journalistic writing, editing, grant writing and corporate creativity consulting services. Prior to starting her own business in 1985, Ilene was editor of the Cleveland edition of TV Guide, associate editor of School Product News (Penton Publishing) and senior public relations representative at Beckman Instruments, Inc. She was profiled in a book, How to Open and Operate a Home-Based Writing Business and listed in Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Advertising and Who's Who in Media and Communications. She was the recipient of the Women in Communications, Inc. Clarion Award in advertising. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Ilene and her family have lived in Irvine, California, since 1978.
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