Mississippi State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine works to advance the early detection of disease in animals through groundbreaking research in imaging technologies.
According to Dr. Alison Lee, MSU veterinary doctor and assistant professor, uses the veterinary medicine department to use imaging techniques such as CT and MRI machines to detect problems such as brain tumors and inflammatory and infectious diseases in an animal’s brain.
Lee said this research is being done at an imaging center on Stark Road. Researchers use the MRI machine primarily to focus on a brain tumor study.
“With the MRI we can see central nerve tissue – – the brain and spinal cord – – much better than any other imaging technology let’s see. It can tell us when there is something abnormal in the brain, “said Lee.
Dr. Andy Shores, clinical professor and CVM chief of neurosurgery and neurology, said this research is profound because brain tumors affect humans and animals in very similar ways, leading to advances in the treatment of both groups.
Shores said the National Institute of Health funded MSU researchers to find new ways to treat brain tumors, particularly glioblastomas, in humans and animals.
“The dog is the model for human disease because there are so many similarities to the type of tumor and the way it affects it,” Shores said.
The neurosurgical neurology group, which focuses on imaging, not only does research, but instead applies it to real-world diagnoses and treatments.
“A lot of what we do isn’t really research, it’s clinical activity,” Shores said. “We are integrating what we can do with patients and promoting the treatment of certain diseases.”
According to Shores, he takes dogs with brain tumors and uses MRIs to diagnose and schedule surgical removal of the brain tumor. The dogs are injected with a modified virus that is supposed to attack only tumor cells.
Shores will then perform routine exams and imaging to check the dog. Additionally, he puts her on another drug that will help expose the tumor and attack it.
Lee helps Shores assess the MRI images and decide which tumor is likely. She said they can use ultrasound imaging technology to further localize the tumor during surgery.
Imaging technology is helpful not only during surgery but also during follow-up treatment. Additionally, Lee helps Shores with the use of cross-sectional imaging during the postoperative period.
Lee is passionate about imaging technologies because brain tumors are devastating in both types. She said they cause behavior problems and affect everything from an animal’s ability to eat and drink to its ability to urinate.
“The brain is a difficult area to treat because we don’t know exactly how it works, and it’s also covered by the skull, so it’s difficult to operate on,” Lee said. “Anything we do about research will help us better treat these animals and result in longer survival times for humans and animals.”
Bailey Haller, a senior life scientist from Gulfport, said MSU’s research is vital not just to the veterinary field, but to the wider medical field.
“The state of Mississippi is looking for ways to help animals that would not have been possible before,” Haller said. “They are also developing equipment and research that will be further explored for human use.”
Haller decided to have a pre-screening exam because she loves helping animals and learning how they work. She is honored to be part of the program and hopes to work on such research in the future.
Head of the Department of Neurosurgery and Neurology, Shores, believes such research is important because most people consider their animals companions. Therefore, it has become increasingly important to ensure that animals can maintain their health.
“Animals have grown from being pets in the home to being real companions, family members, and emotional support,” Shores said. “The ability to study these types of diseases and further treatment is beneficial to the animal and human population because they are emotionally attached to their animals.”
Lee hopes people will know that MSU has this technology and that this type of technology isn’t everywhere. She said if someone has any concerns about their pet, MSU’s Animal Health Center is a wonderful place to visit.
“We can certainly help them get a diagnosis and figure out the next best course of action,” said Lee. “We are very happy to offer this type of technology to our customers.”