Translational research is where laboratory science and clinical medicine meet to develop novel therapeutics to prevent, diagnose and treat disease. Translational research is often associated with clinical trials and is the first step in bringing a new treatment, medication or technique to the market for use in the general population.
At the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary Clinical Investigations Center, we are able to bridge the gap between bench-to-bedside by conducting clinical trials with client-owned dogs and cats. Conventionally, new medical advancements move from experiments with laboratory animals, such as mice, rats and pigs, directly to human clinical trials. The use of client-owned dogs and cats gives scientists and doctors a better understanding of the outcome of therapeutics in patients whose day-to-day lives more closely resemble our own. While laboratory animals live in a very controlled setting, our pets live in our homes, sometimes eat what we eat and experience the environment in a similar way that we do. Not only does translational medicine in the veterinary setting benefit the pets we aim to treat, but it brings us one step closer to treating humans with comparable disease processes.
Many diseases that occur in humans are also recognized in nonhuman species. The Veterinary Clinical Investigations Center (VCIC) provides the infrastructure to facilitate the translation of novel interventions from basic scientists to high quality investigations in companion animals with naturally occurring diseases that parallel the human conditions.
An Alternative Approach to the Discovery/Development Paradigm:
Studies in companion animals with clear parallels in disease pathogenesis, progression and symptoms, can be an effective intermediate step in screening for efficacy and complications of compounds that appear promising in induced rodent models, before committing them to human clinical trials.
Advantages of Studying Human Diseases in Companion Animals:
- The conditions can be naturally similar biologically, histologically and in clinical course
- Since the disease is not induced, complex and sometimes unexpected tissue interactions can be studied
- Many diseases are the consequence of complex interactions with environmental factors, therefore, it is relevant that pets share a common environment with people.
- Heterogeneity and diversity of the pet population is more similar to people than rodent models.
- Comparative genomic analysis suggests significant similarity between canine and human lineage in such things as nucleotide divergence and rearrangements
- Sampling is easier in companion animals compared to rodents
- Diagnostic and monitoring technologies comparable to human patients are used in veterinary patients
- The physiology of the dog is such that it responds to and metabolizes drugs in a comparable way to humans, which is why dogs and cats are routinely used for pharmaceutical and toxicological studies.
- Treating naturally occurring disease does not attract the ethical dilemmas seen with experimentally induced disease.
- Data collected is useful both as clinical data for veterinary patients and preclinical data for human patients