Breakthrough gene therapy relieves chronic pain in dogs

Scientists hopeful for applications in people

DENVER - A revolutionary gene therapy developed in Colorado could relieve people's chronic pain, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia but first, it is being tested on pets with incredible results.

A Lafayette veterinarian is using cutting-edge research to heal dogs.

It may not look like it when 9-year-old Amos, a Labrador Retriever mix, is running happily after the ball, but he
has arthritis, bad.

His owner, Vicki Riedel knew immediately.

"He is always by my side," said Riedel. "When I would go outside or downstairs,and he wouldn't come with me, I knew he was really hurting."

Their vet tried one medication after the next.

"And they all helped a little bit, but none of them really helped a lot, and he seemed to be getting worse and worse," said Riedel.

But a few weeks ago, Amos met pet pain specialist Dr. Rob Landry.

"Amos has a history of chronic pain in both his elbows," said Landry, a Lafayette veterinarian who has been testing a breakthrough gene therapy for chronic pain for the last two years.

"It's amazing," said Laundry with a smile.

He's injected 9 dogs, and so far he said the results speak for themselves.

In cell phone phone video of one dog before the injection, she hops with both back legs because of hip pain.

Just a week post-injection, she uses both legs.

And two months after, her owner said she is a different dog.

"I got into the field of pain to see these changes happen," said Landry.

"It's frankly revolutionary," said Dr. Linda Watkins, who runs the neuroscience program at the University of Colorado.  She started a biomedical company that makes the breakthrough therapeutic.

"It went from basic science, to 'Wow! We got a shot at this,'" said Watkins.

Watkins said that in people with chronic pain, a type of immune cell in the spinal cord gets agitated, releasing signals that amplify pain.

Injecting her therapeutic creates a protein called Interleukin-10 (IL -10), which both dogs and humans produce naturally, and it seems to calm the agitated cells and reduce pain.

In testing on lab rats, it has been effective, but the work on dogs brings new hope.

"It's not a rat thing. That we see it in the dogs and the dogs have pain relief for three months just like the rats did is really giving me hope that it's going to translate all the way to people," said Watkins.

So, the cutting-edge research helping man's best friend could soon help man. Human clinical trials start in a year.

For pets, the timeline could be much shorter -- if the research stays this positive, Landry believes it could be developed for vets within the next year or two.

"This is better medicine. This could lead to much better things," said Landry.

In the meantime, Amos is on half the pain meds he was on a month ago.

He's still sore some days and limps a little, but thanks to a breakthrough gene therapy, he's back to his old tricks.

"Last week, he was even dropping a ball for me to throw again for him, and he's not done that in a long time," said Riedel. "We just want him with us as long as we can, and with this treatment, he is going to be with us a long longer than he would have otherwise."

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