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Moving the clock back

pugClinical researchers at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals are hoping to turn back the clock for small breed dogs that have one of the most common cardiac diseases: mitral valve regurgitation due to degeneration of the valve leaflets. The team intends to develop a better understanding of the fundamental mechanism for the loss of proper valve function and to evaluate earlier treatment options that may delay the development of congestive heart failure.

Clinical cardiologists (Drs. N. Sydney Moïse, Bruce Kornreich, and resident Andrew Waxman) are collaborating with Dr. Jonathan Butcher, Cornell University assistant professor of biomedical engineering, to determine the biomechanics and influence of blood flow on the mitral valve leaflets.

“The idea is that although defective genes likely dictate the predisposition to the degeneration of the valve leaflets, the mechanical stresses placed on the valve can make the disease progress more or less rapidly,” said Moïse. “Such discoveries might influence treatment strategies.”

Concurrent with these studies is a clinical trial focused on discovering treatment for delaying the onset of heart failure associated with mitral regurgitation. The cardiology service at the College of Veterinary Medicine has joined colleagues from other universities and several large referral practices in a double-blinded study to evaluate the efficacy of a beta-adrenergic blocker given early in disease. The cardiology service at Cornell University will enroll a minimum of 25 dogs with mitral regurgitation.

Eligible dogs must meet specific entry criteria, including a minimum of a grade 3 systolic murmur of mitral regurgitation and no clinical signs of congestive heart failure. The vast majority of expenses (estimated expenses for the owners over a potential 4 years of monitoring is < $300) for the diagnostics and care during the course of the study will be covered. Referring veterinarians with eligible cases should contact Dr. Sydney Moïse at

“We greatly appreciate joining with referring veterinarians to obtain answers for the treatment of mitral regurgitation,” said Moïse. “Just as we have reached out to our colleagues in bioengineering, we are reaching out to our colleagues in private practice. It takes more than a team; it takes a good team to move forward.”