When I lost my beloved Devon Rex cat, Ricky, to heart disease, I decided to do something about it.
Ricky and I had one of those special connections. We were lucky. Among the cats in my life, I was Timmy and he was Lassie. No, I didn’t fall into a well or get lost in the woods, but, had I done so, Ricky would have saved the day.
And I know he was a cat. But many years before YouTube, on TV Ricky was able to demonstrate what cats are capable of, so much more than we typically give them credit. Ricky was stricken with the most common type of heart disease in cats, called feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Some cats with this disease lead a normal life, and ultimately succumb at a ripe old age of something unrelated. But many cats with HCM die of the disease. HCM is the most common cause of sudden death in cats. HCM can be a hereditary illness, more common in some pedigreed cats; it can run in families or just randomly occur.
Ricky was the famous piano playing cat back in the late 1990’s. Immediately following Ricky’s sudden death, I began the Ricky Fund with the non-profit Winn Feline Foundation in Ricky’s name to help better understand HCM (which wasn’t even completely understood), and to ultimately come up with a treatment. Today, the Ricky Fund continues, and it will as long as I can raise money, and as long as there is a need. Lots of progress has been made, and HCM is far better understood today than at the time of Ricky’s death. And because of the Ricky Fund, a genetic defect that may cause HCM in Maine Coon and ragdoll cats has been identified, and a simple cheek swab can determine if specific cats are carrying it. This is not a perfect test, but it has helped to lower incidents of HCM in those two breeds.
Below is a review of the most recent recent information looking at Persian cats. To do more, more resources are needed.
W16-034 Evaluation of DNA variants associated with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in the Persian cat.
Principal Investigator: Kathryn M. Meurs, DVM, PhD, DACVIM; North Carolina State University; Winn-funded study final progress report
After completing sequencing from the DNA of 7 affected Persians, Dr. Meur’s research group identified 274,202 DNA variants that could be associated with the development of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in the Persian. They sorted these variants based on genetic importance and the importance of the gene in the heart. They also evaluated the most promising variants in the laboratory by looking at them in additional affected Persians, unaffected Persians and unaffected non- Persians.
Unfortunately they have not identified a single variant that explains the presence of this disease in all affected Persians. The research group has found many that might explain the disease in some but not all Persians. This suggests that the breed very likely has at least two separate mutations that both can lead to the development of this disease.
Although this does make this a more complicated problem, it is not insurmountable.
They are now relooking at all of the data and trying to identify variants that are solid enough to believe they develop the disease in at least some cats. At this time they have not requested any additional funding but will continue to translate the data.
As always, Dr. Meur’s greatly appreciates the support and dedication of the Winn Feline Foundation and the donors. They are very optimistic that somewhere within the data that they have exists a few Persian Cat HCM variants. They just need to be able to put the puzzle together.
Summary prepared for Winn Feline Foundation © 2017