Professor of Pathology and Scientist
Scott-Ritchey Research Center
College of Veterinary Medicine
Graduate Group: Genetics
Thesis Topic: Canine phosphofructokinase deficiency
Dr. Smith's research program in muscular dystrophies is currently focused on identifying canine models of these diseases and applying novel genetic therapies to their treatment. Currently, two models of X-linked Duchenne-like muscular dystrophy (DMD), as well as an autosomal recessive muscular dystrophy (PTPLA deficiency, Labrador Retrievers) are being studied. The laboratory has identified the gene defects in the DMD models and is working on identifying the pathogenic effects of the gene defects in PTPLA deficiency. The laboratory is using these models to develop gene therapy approaches to the muscle dystrophies, as well as DNA based testing programs to eliminate these diseases from the canine population.
Dr. Smith's research program on immunologic and gene therapy for cancer is part of a large collaborative program involving multiple investigators from Auburn University and the University of Alabama, Birmingham. As part of this group, he is investigating several approaches to cancer therapy including conditionally replicative adenoviruses (CRADs) for canine osteosarcoma. These viruses have been tested and encouraging results were seen in a small clinical trial. A second approach under investigation is tumor cell targeted suicide gene therapy in canine lymphoma. This work is currently funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health and involves specifically targeting viral vectors to lymphoma cells and delivery of genes that may be induced to kill tumor cells. Preliminary clinical trials will begin in affected dogs shortly. Work is also proceeding on optimized tumor associated antigen vaccine strategies in malignant melanoma. Finally, in collaboration with Dr. R. Curtis Bird, the laboratory is examining the potential of dendritic cell fusion vaccines in canine mammary cancer. These vaccines use autologous dendritic cells fused with canine breast cancer cell lines to create anti-tumor immune responses.