Inflammatory liver disease is a widespread ailment among cats, but further research into a promising new therapy may soon reduce its prevalence.

Pouncing on a protein

Ahmad Al-Dissi hopes his research will someday lead to a better treatment for inflammatory liver disease (ILD), a chronic and painful condition in many cats whose cause still remains a mystery for veterinarians.

"There are a lot of cases of cats with liver disease. The cause of ILD is largely unknown and there are few things we can do to treat the disease, especially in advanced stages," said Al-Dissi, an assistant professor in the Western College of Veterinary Medicine's (WCVM) Department of Veterinary Pathology.

Some of the clinical signs of feline ILD include a loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, excessive urination and thirst. As the disease progresses, fibrosis (a build-up of connective tissue) increases and liver function decreases in the affected cat, worsening its clinical outcome. In extreme cases, ILD will eventually cause death.

Al-Dissi is leading a study that may help researchers gain a better understanding of the defensive response initiated by the feline liver—information that could lead to the development of a better treatment option for cats with ILD.

"The focus is shifting from identifying causes of liver damage to understanding mechanisms (of disease and defense) within the liver," said Al-Dissi, whose study is supported by the WCVM Companion Animal Health Fund.

His research project examines the presence and the ability of metallothionein (MT)—a heavy metal-binding protein—to potentially reduce microscopic markers of liver disease, such as inflammation and fibrosis.

Read more at WCVM Today.
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