Dr. Kittleson and Dr. Kate Meurs, DVM, Diplomate ACVIM (Cardiology) of Ohio State University, have announced a breakthrough in the battle against hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)in Maine Coons.
They have identified a DNA mutation that appears to cause HCM in Maine Coons. They have written a paper for publication of their discovery and the abstract of their study has been presented at the ACVIM forum.
Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy or HCM is the most common heart disease in cats. It is characterized by the thickening of areas of the heart muscle. Because of the thickening, the heart can not relax well or fill up with blood as it should.
Although the disease is usually progressive, its early signs may be subtle or nonexistent. A cat that seems healthy may appear to become very ill very quickly, or die suddenly. If the disease is diagnosed early, a cat's life can be prolonged with medication, however there is no cure.
The Ricky Fund
In June, 2002, Steve Dale, a nationally syndicated pet columnist and radio show host, lost his beloved Devon Rex, Ricky, who died of HCM. Steve worked with the Winn Feline Foundation to create a fund for HCM research in Ricky's memory. The Ricky Fund has raised more than $60,000 since 2002. The monies have contributed to several research studies including that of Dr. Kittleson and Dr. Kate Meurs.
A DNA Test
It is expected that there will soon be a standardized DNA test available. The impact for Maine Coon breeders means that they will be able to test their breeding stock and eventually eliminate those cats with the HCM gene.
The Future & The Impact For Other Breeds
Work will continue to determine if this is the only mutation in Maine Coons which causes HCM. There are over 200 mutations which cause HCM documented in humans, so there may be more than one HCM gene in Maine Coons.
This significant break-through may also aid researchers to identify the HCM gene in other breeds. While it may not be the same mutation it may be a related protein - and that information may help to narrow the research.