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Man's Best Friend May Open Door to Understanding Fibrotic Lung Disease in Human and Animal Populations

Human and Canine Respiratory Specialists Meet for First Time to Discuss Joint Research Efforts Into Pulmonary Fibrosis and Other Fibrotic Lung Diseases

LAFAYETTE, Ind., Oct. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- In what is a growing trend among research scientists in the United States and the United Kingdom, animal and human researchers are collaborating to find answers that will lead to effective treatments for deadly diseases that affect both species. Researchers from internationally-recognized medical, veterinary and academic institutions joined together for the first human/canine conference on fibrotic lung disease.

The group met in Lafayette, Ind., in an effort to examine potential collaborative opportunities to research the disease. The researchers joined to investigate the possibility of finding faster paths that will lead to the identification of effective treatment in the human form of the disease which has confounded researchers for decades as well as identifying, diagnosing and treating dogs with canine pulmonary fibrosis.

"We brought together thought leaders on both the human and animal sides of fibrotic lung disease as a groundbreaking opportunity to look at this devastating disease and its impact on West Highland White Terriers (Westies) and discuss how science in animals and humans can work together to combat it," said Wayne Kompare, president of the Westie Foundation of America, the group that hosted the two-day meeting along with two foundations that fund canine veterinary research: the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation and Morris Animal Foundation.

Similarities between human fibrotic lung disease and fibrotic lung disease that affects dogs are profound. Dogs known to be more commonly affected by the deadly lung disease, which is characterized by extensive and progressive scarring in the lungs, are Westies, a loveable companion popular in the U.S. and the U.K. It is currently believed some terriers may be at significant risk for the disease.

"We are certainly encouraged about the opportunity this type of comparative research presents," said Jesse Roman, M.D., a human fibrotic lung disease expert from Emory University Medical Center who attended the meeting. "It is known that dog physiology is similar to human physiology and this combined effort may provide findings that will be important to both bodies of knowledge."

The disease in Westies and some other breeds of dog appears to be very similar to the disease that claims 40,000 human lives each year in the U.S., the same number as breast cancer. The main symptoms of the disease, including shortness of breath and a dry cough, also seem to be consistent between humans and dogs. There is no known cause, no approved treatment and no cure for either the human or animal strains of the disease.

Because dogs age at a rate that is believed to be about seven times that of the human rate of aging, and fibrotic lung disease tends to be most common later in life, participating scientists are optimistic that the opportunity to study canine pulmonary fibrosis may provide a new approach that will lead to the discovery of treatments for both humans and animals. At the same time, veterinarians are excited about the opportunity to learn from human research to better diagnose and treat the dogs that are dying from fibrotic lung disease.

"There is no question we in veterinary medicine can learn from our colleagues in human medicine. Their understanding of fibrotic lung disease is much more developed than what we know about the canine disease," said Kurt Williams, DVM, PhD, DACVP, Assistant Professor of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation from Michigan State University, who also attended the meeting. "We believe that researching this disease in animals may move the field forward at a much faster pace than is possible in human medicine."

"We support unique collaborations like this that can help improve understanding of pulmonary fibrosis, and eagerly await the opportunity to contribute to this partnership," said Mark Shreve, CEO for the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis, the nation's largest nonprofit organization representing the PF community. "New approaches are clearly needed to advance research into PF, and we're encouraged that such an esteemed group of specialists came together in this setting to freely discuss what opportunities may exist".

Comparative dog and human research is a growing trend in the scientific community due to the benefits for both. At nearby Purdue University, scientists are currently researching bladder cancer in dogs and applying what they're learning to human research and vice versa.

In addition to Dr. Roman and Dr. Williams, medical and veterinary specialists attending the first-time meeting included renowned human respiratory disease experts Kevin Brown, MD, from National Jewish Medical & Research Center and Amy Olson, MD from National Jewish Medical & Research Center, the University of Colorado and the University of Washington, Keith Meyer, MD, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical Center, and David Perlman, MD, from University of Minnesota Medical Center, Timothy Weaver, PhD, of Cincinnati Children's Hospital, as well as veterinarians Elizabeth Rozanski, DVM, DACVIM, from Tufts University, Brendan Corcoran, MVB, DipPharm, PhD, MRCVS, of University of Edinburgh, Scotland, Laurent Couetil, DVM, PhD, DACVIM from Purdue University and Richard Vulliet, DVM, PhD of University of California-Davis.

Plans for the human/canine fibrotic lung disease research include the creation of the first published white paper on this aspect of fibrotic lung disease as well as the creation of diagnostic guidelines and standards of care for animals and creation of an animal tissue bank to study the pathology and epidemiology of the disease.

About the AKC Canine Health Foundation

Since its beginning in 1995, the AKC Canine Health Foundation has awarded more than 400 grants totaling more than $20 million to veterinary schools and research institutions worldwide. Founded by the AKC, the AKC Canine Health Foundation is the largest nonprofit organization in the world that funds health research exclusively for canines. For more information, visit or call 1-888-682-9696.

About the Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis

The Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis (CPF) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, founded in 2001 to accelerate research efforts leading to a cure for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), while educating, supporting, and advocating for the community of patients, families, and medical professionals fighting this disease. For more information please visit or call (888) 222-8541.

About Morris Animal Foundation (MAF)

Morris Animal Foundation, established in 1948, is dedicated to funding research that protects, treats and cures companion animals and wildlife. MAF has been at the forefront of funding breakthrough research studies benefiting animals in some 100 countries, spanning all seven continents on earth. For more information, call (800) 243-2345, or visit

About the Westie Foundation of America

The mission of the Westie Foundation of America is to provide financial aid and other support for medical research in order to benefit the health and quality of life of West Highland White Terriers; and, to further develop and communicate information regarding the health, care, breeding and quality of life of Westies to Westie owners, Westie breeders and veterinarians. For more information visit

SOURCE Coalition for Pulmonary Fibrosis
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