Low-cost sterilization method for cats and dogs is focus of new research project

July 18, 2013, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center

As an expert in molecular genetics, Colin E. Bishop, Ph.D.'s, usual role at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center's Institute for Regenerative Medicine is to apply the techniques of genetics and developmental biology to the regeneration of human organs.

But, with a background specifically in reproductive genetics, Bishop is also on a mission to help solve the over-population of homeless dogs and cats. Bishop has been awarded a two-year pilot grant from Michelson Prize and Grants (MPG), a division of the Found Animals Foundation, to develop a one-shot, non-surgical method for sterilizing companion animals.

According to MPG, an estimated six million to eight million cats and dogs enter U.S. shelters and three to four million of these animals are euthanized. Bishop is one of about 20 grant recipients worldwide working on developing non-surgical, single dose sterilization technology. The foundation will award a $25 million prize to the first research entity to develop a successful product.

Bishop's approach is to develop an injection to destroy particular cells in the hypothalamus, an area in the brain about the size of a pearl that controls reproduction in mammals. Because do not regenerate, it is believed that the treatment will lead to permanent sterility in the animals. Just like neutering or spaying, this method has the potential to eliminate the unwanted mating behaviors of without affecting their general health.

Specifically, the treatment aims to destroy GnRH cells in the that stimulate hormones that control male and . Bishop is designing a novel system for delivering a toxin to the GnRH cells. He will engineer nano-sized packages called exosomes that are generated from . These packages will be tagged to carry the molecular "address" of the GnRH cells, so that other cell types will not be affected. Inside the package will be a deadly "message" – a toxin derived from influenza-A that is designed to bind with and kill the GnRH cells.

The milestones of the two-year project include generating engineered exosomes from mouse stem cells and evaluating their potential to fuse with the GnRH cells. The team will then load the exosomes with the toxin and test their ability to kill GnRH cells in a laboratory setting and in mice.

The ultimate goal of MPG and the Found Animals Foundation is "to end shelter euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals." According to the Found Animals website, a one-shot sterilization method could also be used internationally to reduce the population of homeless dogs and cats.

Explore further: Brain region may hold key to aging

Related Stories

Brain region may hold key to aging

May 1, 2013
While the search continues for the Fountain of Youth, researchers may have found the body's "fountain of aging": the brain region known as the hypothalamus. For the first time, scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine ...

Virus-like particles provide vital clues about brain tumors

April 17, 2013
Exosomes are small, virus-like particles that can transport genetic material and signal substances between cells. Researchers at Lund University, Sweden, have made new findings about exosomes released from aggressive brain ...

New mode of cellular communication discovered in the brain

July 16, 2013
Researchers at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) have discovered a new form of communication between different cell types in the brain. Nerve cells interact with neighboring glial cells, which results in a transfer ...

Recommended for you

Researchers devise decoy molecule to block pain where it starts

January 16, 2018
For anyone who has accidentally injured themselves, Dr. Zachary Campbell not only sympathizes, he's developing new ways to blunt pain.

Scientists unleash power of genetic data to identify disease risk

January 16, 2018
Massive banks of genetic information are being harnessed to shed new light on modifiable health risks that underlie common diseases.

Blood-vessel-on-a-chip provides insight into new anti-inflammatory drug candidate

January 15, 2018
One of the most important and fraught processes in the human body is inflammation. Inflammatory responses to injury or disease are crucial for recruiting the immune system to help the body heal, but inflammation can also ...

Molecule produced by fat cells reduces obesity and diabetes in mice

January 15, 2018
UC San Francisco researchers have discovered a new biological pathway in fat cells that could explain why some people with obesity are at high risk for metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. The new findings—demonstrated ...

Obese fat becomes inflamed and scarred, which may make weight loss harder

January 12, 2018
The fat of obese people becomes distressed, scarred and inflamed, which can make weight loss more difficult, research at the University of Exeter has found.

Optimized human peptide found to be an effective antibacterial agent

January 11, 2018
A team of researchers in the Netherlands has developed an effective antibacterial ointment based on an optimized human peptide. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes developing ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.