Like me I bet you’ve never heard of GM1 Gangliosidosis, unless your cat has this horrible inherited disease. It’s a disorder that slowly destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord of young kittens. Siamese and Korat breeds are most susceptible.
While this neurological disease used to be a death sentence, researchers at Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine have made outstanding progress to keep them living longer.
Kittens born with GM1 Gangliosidosis are missing a vital enzyme that is necessary to metabolize fats. Instead the fats accumulate in their bodies and cause progressive neurological damage. The problem is seen in kittens that are 1 to 5 months old and death comes before their first birthday.
Signs & Symptoms
- Kittens show signs of weakness in their hind legs that moves up to their front limbs.
- Patients have an uncoordinated and high-stepping gait.
- Kittens have tremors or seizures.
- There is an involuntary side-to-side movement of the eyes.
GM1 Gangliosidosis is an inherited problem that makes two copies of a gene instead of one. The disease was always fatal until Dr. Doug Martin, associate professor at Auburn University, and his team introduced a gene therapy that produces a new fat eating enzyme. Their study has kittens living 5 times as long as they used to survive.
While that is amazing news, Dr. Martin is now trying to model this same gene therapy to save children with a similar condition called Tay-Sachs Disease. Children with Tay-Sachs can’t metabolize fats and progressively become weaker. They typically don’t live past the age of two.
Dr. Martin would like to start a clinical trial in the U.S. and the UK by next year. The university is trying to raise the funds necessary for the study now. They’ve chosen the unique format of getting donations on CrowdRise. You can read more about the study on the fundraising website.
Cat DNA Test
Pet parents who want to test their Korat or Siamese cat to see if they are carriers of GM1 Gangliosidosis can contact Auburn University for a new DNA test.