Critter Corner: Could a Dog Dementia Cure Work in Humans?

Hayek 1Dear Hayek,

I read that dogs can get dementia and that there are some successful treatments available. I find this to be fascinating. Could these same treatments that work in dogs possibly work in humans? Thanks for your help!

Kay Nyne

Dear Kay,

Canine cognitive dysfunction looks a lot like dementia in humans. Some of the symptoms are the same and can include memory and learning impairments, changes in sociability, and sleep problems.

A company called Skin2Neuron published a veterinary trial that appeared to successfully treat canine cognitive dysfunction and announced their intention to start a clinical trial to see if the treatment also works in humans.

Five dogs that experienced disorientation, anxiety, and difficulty remembering routines were recruited to test the treatment. Scientists took skin cells from the dogs and used “a cocktail of cellular factors to transform them into neural precursor cells. These personalized precursor cells were then injected into the hippocampus, the region of the brain important for memory,” according to Skin2Neuron’s trial. Four out of the five dogs recruited for the study showed substantial cognitive improvements three months after the injection. Two dogs underwent a full reversal of the condition two years after the initial treatment!

A 12-year-old Pomeranian named Leo showed dramatic cognitive improvements in the trial, according to his owner, Fiona Gibbs. “Before treatment, Leo forgot who we were, got lost, and had unpredictable episodes where he would growl and snap – it was really scary,” she said. “A few months after treatment, he started getting better, and was soon back to his normal self.” She had to look back at the footage of Leo to remind herself how he was and how far he has come.

Michael Valenzuela, the company’s CEO, believes that if he could show a treatment worked in dogs, it would be more likely to translate to humans.

Valenzuela believes that the anti-amyloid approaches being studied by other scientists might not be sufficient to fix the damage caused by dementia. “It’s hard for me to imagine a small molecule or drug that could have that kind of huge biological effect,” he said. “That’s why we’re having to go down the route of delivering cells to a specific spot.” He and his team turned their focus to stimulating the growth of new neurons and connections in the brain as a method for treating the disease.

While a similar treatment in humans would be invasive, Valenzuela notes that there are other treatments for neurodegenerative disorders that also require surgery, such as the implantation of electrodes in the brain for deep brain stimulation of persons suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Valenzuela and his company are now preparing to take their approach to clinical trials for humans with dementia pathology. The human clinical trial will commence in 2024 in Australia.

My paws are crossed for a cure for all humans and animals with dementia!



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About Renee Eder

Renee Eder is the Director of Public Relations for the Farr Law Firm, and gives the voice to the Critters of Critter Corner. Renee’s poodle, Penny, is an official comfort dog who she and her children bring to visit with seniors who are in the early stages of dementia at a local senior home once a month.