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Samples from Pembroke Welsh Corgis for ALS Research Needed

January 10th, 2017 by Deanna Johnson

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a devastating disorder of older adults that is characterized by progressive loss of muscle function. Ultimately victims of this disease become completely paralyzed and eventually die when the muscles that control breathing and swallowing no longer work.

An analogous disease called degenerative myelopathy (DM) occurs in older dogs from a number of breeds, but is particularly common in Pembroke Welsh Corgis. The disease in Corgis usually has an onset at about 8 years of age with progressive loss of hind limb function early in the disease. In the early stages affected dogs can still manage to have a reasonable quality of life if they are provided with a “wheelchair” type device such as that shown in the picture above. Unfortunately, as with ALS patients, muscles in addition to those of the hind limbs eventually become involved and the dogs eventually will become completely paralyzed if allowed to live long enough. Many affected dogs are euthanized before they reach this stage of the disease.

Pembroke Welsh Corgi with DM

The Neurodegenerative Diseases Research Laboratory (NDRL) at the MU School of Medicine in Columbia, Missouri is conducting research to examine the changes that occur in the muscles and in the nerves that control them in Corgis. By examining these tissues from dogs euthanized at different stages of the disease, as well as from unaffected age-matched Corgis, they hope to develop a picture of how the disease develops and thereby develop a rational approach to therapy that they hope will apply to both DM and ALS. In order for these studies to succeed, researchers at the NDRL need nerve and muscle tissue donations from both affected and particularly unaffected Corgis that are being euthanized. The NDRL will provide kits to veterinarians to preserve and ship the tissues to NDRL for analyses. If you have or know of an older Pembroke Welsh Corgi that is being euthanized for any reason and would like to assist with this important research by donating tissues from the dog, please contact either Professor Martin Katz (katzm@health.missouri.edu) or Dr. Joan Coates (coatesj@missouri.edu) to arrange to have a kit for the tissue preservation and shipping sent.