Cornell Feline Health Center

Supporting Cat Health with Information and Health Studies.

2021 - 2022 Funded Research Projects

A Non-Inferiority, Randomized Clinical Trial of Topical Dermatophytosis Treatments in Shelter Cats Receiving Oral Itraconazole

Dermatophytosis, also known as ringworm, is a fungal infection of the skin that can cause itchy red, scaly rashes that can negatively impact a cat’s quality of life and that can be transmitted to people.

A common problem in shelters, dermatophytosis can spread among cats that are housed in close proximity, and treating shelter cats and preventing transmission in this setting can be costly and challenging.

Feline dermatophytosis can be treated with an oral medication called itraconazole, commonly combined with topical application of a lime/sulfur (LS) solution. This LS solution, though, has a very noxious odor, commonly corrodes shelter equipment, is not available in Canada, and is generally unpleasant to both cats being treated and shelter personal administering this treatment.

Recently, two alternative topical therapies, miconazole/chlorhexidine (MC) and accelerated hydrogen peroxide (AHP) have shown promise in treating feline dermatophytosis in preliminary studies, but neither has been well studied in cats with naturally occurring dermatophytosis.

This study will compare the effectiveness of MC and AHP application to that of LS in treating feline dermatophytosis in shelter cats receiving oral itraconazole, and is an important step in determining whether these newer topical therapies are an effective alternative for treating feline dermatophytosis.

Investigator: Lena DeTar, DVM, DABVP, DACVPM

Generation of Feline Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (IPSC) for Regenerative Cell Therapy in Feline Medicine

Stem cells are primordial precursor cells that can mature into virtually any cell type in the body. They can be obtained from embryos (called embryonic stem cells) or by reprogramming cells that have matured into a particular cell type back into stem cells (called induced pluripotent stem cells, or IPSC). IPSC have been created in a variety of animal species, but there has been relatively little research focused on the production of feline IPSC.

Stem cells have tremendous potential to treat a variety of diseases by replacing abnormal, diseased cells from an unhealthy organ (i.e. liver, heart, nervous system, skin) with stem cell-derived healthy cells. They can also be used to learn about how specific diseases develop, and to develop novel treatment options for a variety of diseases.

The aims of this study are to create feline IPSC by reprogramming feline fetal fibroblasts (fundamental cells that produce connective tissue like collagen) and then to program these IPSC to develop into a type of cell (mesenchymal stromal cell) that produces tissues in a variety of organ systems in the body (i.e. those that produce bone, cartilage, fat cells, and muscle).

This is the first important step toward the development of a library of feline IPSC that can be used to improve our understanding of how a variety of feline diseases develop and to devise novel, cutting-edge therapies to treat them.

Investigator: Gerlinde Van de Walle DVM, PhD

Antigenic and genetic variation of feline panleukopenia virus and vaccine immunity

Panleukopenia virus is an important pathogen of cats, and routine vaccination against infection by this ubiquitous virus is recommended for all cats.

This study is focused on characterizing the genetic variation of naturally occurring feline panleukopenia virus strains to determine whether there is sufficient antigenic variation in the currently circulating viruses compared to the standard vaccines to reduce vaccine-induced immunity, or to alter the protection conferred to kittens by the immune systems of their queens. The second hypothesis being tested is that the variation that occurs is wide-spread, or even global, and alters viral infection properties and virulence and that evolutionary analysis will identify genetic changes that are showing increased distribution in the USA or in other regions of the world.

Investigator: Colin Parrish PhD

Development of feline chimeric antigen receptor-expressing natural killer cells (CAR-NK) against a feline coronavirus spike protein

This study is investigating the use of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-engineered immune cells (immune cells that are genetically modified to allow them to target specific pathogens) to foster the development of novel treatment modalities to treat feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), a devastating disease of cats that is caused my mutation of feline enteric coronavirus (FeCV).

The goals of this study include the development of novel purification techniques to identify feline natural killer (NK) cells (a type of white blood cell that plays an important role in neutralizing cells that are infected by viruses), genetically modifying these cells to alter their ability to neutralize coronavirus-infected cells, and to measure this altered cytotoxicity.

Investigator: Cynthia Leifer PhD

Two vaccine platforms to prevent feline coronavirus disease

This research is focused on Investigating the use of a novel small molecule that targets feline enteric coronavirus (FeCV) membrane fusion (a critical step in infection) while not altering viral membrane protein structure, as the first step toward the development of novel FeCV vaccines.

There is currently no vaccine available to prevent FeCV infection, and the development of such a vaccine would be highly impactful on feline health worldwide.

Investigator: Hector Aguillar-Careno  PhD