March 15, 2015


 UPenn receives gift for canine mitral valve disease research

Posted Feb. 25, 2015 

​A $450,000 gift to the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine will support research in the treatment of canine mitral valve disease, the university announced in January.

The gift from Bruce Wiltsie and William Davenport was made in honor of their dog Barth, who died as a result of MVD, and for whom the Barth Memorial Fund for Mitral Valve Disease is named. The funds will allow UPenn researchers to investigate new medications to stop or reverse the process of the disease. The work may also have important implications for the nonsurgical treatment of MVD in people.  

MVD is the most common heart disease in dogs and affects as many as 70 percent of dogs over 10 years of age, according to UPenn. In dogs with severe MVD, the mitral valve leak can lead to congestive heart failure. Currently, there are no available treatments to slow or reverse the underlying disease process. 

Dr. Mark Oyama is a professor of cardiology at the UPenn veterinary school and an authority on MVD. He and his colleagues have found that many of the pathological features of serotonin-mediated valve disease in humans are strikingly similar to those found in dogs with MVD in that serotonin activates degenerative changes within the canine mitral valve, drugs that block serotonin receptors reduce this response, and dog breeds that are predisposed to MVD have increased amounts of serotonin in their bloodstream and heart tissues.

With the establishment of the Barth memorial fund, Dr. Oyama aims to develop a serotonin-blocking drug to stop or reverse the disease before congestive heart failure occurs. Once a new drug is developed or the best existing alternative is identified, a clinical trial will follow involving several hundred dogs worldwide with naturally occurring, early MVD.