Analyzing mRNA profiles in cats with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

Advisors:
Dr. Ayesha Ali (Math & Stats)
Dr. Andreas Heyland (IB)

Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) is the most common heart disease in cats, affecting 15% of the pet cat population. The disease is characterized by spontaneous thickening of the heart muscle, particularly the left ventricle resulting in reduced heart function. While cats with HCM may show no clinical signs, others can develop blood clots, heart failure or experience sudden death. Little is known about the factors that influence disease development and the highly variable progression and outcome.

Identifying and quantifying genetic factors such as mRNA transcripts is known as mRNA profiling and allows determining gene expression changes in disease. As of yet, the mRNA profiles in hearts from healthy cats and cats with HCM remain unknown. In previous studies our lab found differences in the myocardial expression of selected inflammatory and cardiac remodeling genes in cats with HCM. To obtain comprehensive information regarding which genes are involved in the disease process, we have used RNA-sequencing to generate myocardial mRNA profiles in cats with HCM and healthy cats. The objective of this project is to analyze our existing datasets to:

  1. Identify pathways and regulatory factors involved in HCM
  2. Identify key genes as potential cardiac biomarkers or therapeutic targets in HCM

Analysis of mRNA profiles will contribute to the knowledge of disease processes in the heart of cats with HCM. Also, identification of potential biomarkers and therapeutic targets will improve disease diagnosis and management.