This has been a special year filled with renewed vigor in our program. We have met numerous people who have pets afflicted with DM, sharing experiences with them and helping where we can. The Neurology Ichat server came online and weekly meetings for the DM_Support_Group began. This group has been a tremendous resource for each other and for new patients. In addition, we provided a seminar on the Ichat server for the Group and plan more in the future. We answered over 1000 email inquiries for assistance and helped as many people as possible. A number of feature articles have been published about our program and awareness is at an all time high. This is a vast improvement; but, of course, we still have many people to reach, not enough veterinarians know that DM can be treated nor how to diagnose the disease. We have expanded and integrated our DM web pages during 1998, providing more information and a simplified shopping list for medications. Westlab Pharmacy partnered with us to help produce antioxQ-CB, a convenient mixture of many of the supplements we recommend to support DM therapy. We know that information is critical in DM, since knowledge empowers people to seek the correct diagnosis and get treatment early.
Our research efforts have led to the conclusion that DM and MS may well be the same disease, something which we have not really been able to say since the beginning of our work 25 years ago. This is important, since we may open avenues for research funds which were previously unavailable. We know that DM and MS are autoimmune diseases. We think that the risk factors for DM (including genetic potential and environmental factors) are similar to MS as well. Studies looking at glutamate levels in CSF have shown them to be elevated in DM (as they are in MS), but these elevations are not DM specific. The glutamate levels go up in many neurologic diseases, including IVD herniation. We think these levels represent a response to neural injury rather than a cause of damage. We have furthered our studies of CSF markers, demonstrating that the profile for DM fits those of other inflammatory diseases. Importantly, we found no evidence of viral, bacterial or prion markers, only markers of immune disease. We have begun studies to examine DNA of affected animals (and controls) to determine if we can locate regions on the DNA which could be the key for establishing the genetic potential for developing DM. These studies will commence in earnest next year, having established the needed methodology this year. We will also combine this work with epidemiological studies to seek risk factors for DM. These new studies will be critical to developing strategies for early detection and for prevention of DM.
Treatment has continued to evolve and refine so that we can help more patients. Unfortunately, new MS drugs remain too expensive and have not yet taken into account the need for neuroprotection in MS. In that regard, we are ahead. We still seek new approaches. Recently, we have treated one of our long-standing patients with a new drug used for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. The results have been encouraging and the patient has begun to show improvements. Although the patient had been stable for a number of years, in the last 4 months, there was a steady decline. This has reversed. We are planning a controlled trial with the new drug next year to confirm this finding and be sure there are no longterm side-effects. This may lead to a change in our protocol; the first in several years. We are very excited about this, since it renews our hope of an eventual cure.
Of course, none of these improvements would have been possible without the financial support of our many donors. We, and DM dogs everywhere, cannot thank these people enough. I hope that each of you recognizes the importance of your support. We have made great strides, are on the verge of new discoveries and have impacted more people than ever, because of your sacrifices. You are the heros, since without your support, none of this would have been possible. We still have work to do, battles to fight and wars to win before we can rest; but I have never seen the future look brighter. I remain confidently optimistic that, together, we will find the remaining answers, ending the suffering wrought by DM.
Best wishes for health and long life.
R.M. Clemmons, DVM, PhD
Associate Professor of Neurology & Neurosurgery
Last updated 27 August 2002