The goal of this project is to identify autoantibodies that are present in the blood of dogs who are newly diagnosed with Addison’s disease in three breeds: Standard Poodles, Portuguese Water Dogs, and English Cocker Spaniels. To accomplish these goals, we have been focusing on (1) collecting blood samples from dogs across all three target breeds, and (2) employing methods that allow us to detect these autoantibodies.
In terms of collecting blood samples, during the first several years of this project we have collected all the samples required from Standard Poodles and Portuguese Water Dogs, and nearly all of the samples required for English Cocker Spaniels. We are continuing to actively recruit newly diagnosed dogs across all three breeds through many online channels.
More recently, we have used these samples to detect the presence of autoantibodies in newly diagnosed dogs using a technique called Western blotting. Our findings show that there are autoantibodies that are consistently present against adrenocortical proteins in dogs with a new diagnosis of Addison’s disease.
Currently, we are focused on the next phase of our work which is to identify which specific proteins are targeted by these autoantibodies. We are genetically engineering three candidate proteins in our laboratory, and at the moment we are working through some challenges related to protein purification. Once we have made and isolated these proteins, we will test the serum from affected and unaffected dogs for reactivity against these proteins. We hope that these tests of reactivity will help us determine the predominant target of autoantibodies in canine Addison’s disease for each breed. This will then set us on a path to developing a robust immunologic test to predict which dogs are at highest risk of developing the disease.