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Forum examines link between genetic expression, diet
Many of the leading killers of dogs correspond to diseases that trouble humans.
ST. LOUIS — The latest knowledge about both the human and canine genomes may help researchers find new applications for nutrients, according to information presented recently at a Nestlé Purina scientific symposium.
Titled "The Future of Nutrition Research," presentations at the 2005 Nestlé Purina Nutrition Forum examined the link between gene expression and nutrients, and its potential impact on human and animal health.
New technologies, including genomics, transcriptomics, metabolomics and proteomics, were described in relation to nutrition research. During the course of the three-day symposium, dozens of veterinary and nutrition specialists detailed how conditions, such as osteoarthritis, diabetes mellitus and obesity — as well as the aging process itself — can be addressed through the feeding of various nutrients. These nutrients help regulate gene expression, which in turn can greatly influence how the condition is manifested within the body.
"Our goal in sponsoring the annual Nestlé Purina Nutrition Forum is to share the latest nutrition-related findings from academic and private-sector research with the veterinary profession," says forum organizer Dottie Laflamme, DVM, PhD, DACVN, Nestlé Purina PetCare.
"We want to present the scientific and veterinary community with an overview of how the latest knowledge is being applied today, while also giving them a look at its future potential."
Key presentation findings included:
Technological advances that have enabled scientists to closely examine what occurs at the molecular level provide the tools to more accurately study how nutrition might play a role in the management of various conditions.
Nutrients can cause the expression of numerous genes to be increased or decreased. Understanding this molecular activity is crucial in using nutrients to manage conditions such as cancer and osteoarthritis.
Specific highlights of the Nestlé Purina Nutrition Forum included the following:
- Dr. Michael Zody of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard discussed the canine genome sequence and its implications, explaining that the canine genome is 80 percent of the size of the human genome, while many of the leading killers of dogs — cancer, epilepsy, heart disease and autoimmune disease — correspond with those in humans. Studying markers for genetic diseases in purebred dogs, he noted, also provides a model for the study of genetic disease diagnosis and management.
- Dr. John Milner of the National Cancer Institute discussed the potential for nutrigenomics — the ability of nutrients to alter or influence gene expression — to intervene in one of the leading killers of humans and animals: cancer. With 23 percent of all dogs and 45 percent of dogs older than 10 years of age dying from cancer, the stakes are high. Areas of study include the ability of bioactive food components to modify cellular processes, such as cell signaling, cell cycle control, inflammation, immunocompetence, hormonal balance, apoptosis and angio-genesis. Future success in applying nutrition to possibly reduce cancer burden, he explained, will depend on the ability of the scientific community to identify appropriate molecular targets and associated biomarkers.
- Dr. Steve Hannah of Nestlé Purina PetCare Research detailed a success story in applied molecular nutrition: the benefit of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids for dogs with osteoarthritis, a chronic condition affecting approximately 20 percent of the canine population. More than a decade of research that evaluated osteoarthritis at the molecular level led to the identification of an optimum amount of key fatty acids, especially eicosapentaenoic acid, which effectively altered and managed the changes associated with this condition.
"The innovative research described during this year's forum points to the potential for an exciting and increasingly important role for nutrition in the future of veterinary medicine and the health of all companion animals," Laflamme concluded. "The goal is to use these scientific discoveries to ultimately find practical, nutritional management strategies to support and maintain optimum health."
Proceedings can be ordered by calling the Nestlé Purina Veterinary Resource Center at 1-800-222-VETS (8387).