Mississippi State University's College of Veterinary Medicine is working to advance early disease detection in animals through their ground-breaking research in imaging technologies.
According to Dr. Alison Lee, doctor of veterinary medicine and assistant professor at MSU, the Department of Veterinary Medicine is using imaging technology such as CT and MRI machines to detect issues like brain tumors and inflammatory and infectious diseases in an animal's brain.
Lee said this research is conducted at an imaging center on Stark Road. Researchers are primarily using the MRI machine to focus on a brain tumor study.
"The MRI allows us to see central nervous tissue — the brain and the spinal cord — much better than any other imaging technologies let us see it. It can tell us when there is anything abnormal in the brain," Lee said.
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 advancement for the treatment of both groups.
Shores said the National Institute of Health has provided funding for MSU's researchers to look at novel ways to treat brain tumors, specifically glioblastoma, in both humans and animals.
"The dog is the model for the human disease because there are so many similarities with the type of tumor and the way it affects them," Shores said.
The neurosurgery neurology group that is focusing on imaging technologies is not merely performing research but instead applying it to real-life diagnosis and treatments.
"A lot of what we do is not really research but clinical activity," Shores said. "We incorporate what we are able to do with the patients and further the advancement of treatment for certain diseases."
According to Shores, he takes dogs who have brain tumors and uses the MRI to diagnose and plan for a surgical removal of the brain tumor. The dogs receive an injection of a modified virus designed to attack only tumor cells.
Shores then performs follow-up routine exams and imaging to check on the dog. Additionally, he puts them on another drug which helps to uncover 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 help further localize the tumor during a surgery.
Imaging technology is helpful to use not only during surgery but also during follow-up treatment. Additionally, Lee helps Shores use cross-sectional imaging during the post-operative stage.
Lee is passionate about imaging technologies because brain tumors are devastating in both species. She said they cause behavioral issues and affect everything from an animal's ability to eat and drink to their ability to urinate.
"The brain is a difficult area to treat because we do not have a great understanding of exactly how it works and it is also covered by the skull, so it is a difficult area to operate on," Lee said. "All of what we are doing research-wise is going to help us better treat these animals and lead to longer survival times for both people and animals."
Bailey Haller, a senior biological sciences major from Gulfport, said MSU's research is extremely important for not just the veterinary medical field but the medical field as a whole.
"Mississippi State is finding ways to help animals that previously would not have been possible," Haller said. "They are also developing equipment and research that will be further explored for human use."
Haller decided to be pre-vet because she loves helping animals and learning how they function. She said she is honored to be a part of the program and hopes to work on research like this in the future.
Chief of Neurosurgery and Neurology Shores believes research like this is important because most people view their animals as companions, and that has made it increasingly important to make sure animals can maintain their health.
"Animals have evolved from being a pet around the house to being actual companions, family members and emotional support," Shores said. "Being able to look at those kinds of diseases and further treatment is a benefit to the animal and the human population because of their emotional attachment to their animals."
Lee hopes people are aware MSU has this technology and that this type of technology is not everywhere. She said if anyone has concerns about their pet, MSU's Animal Health Center is a wonderful place to visit.
"We can certainly help them get diagnoses and figure out the next best step for treatment," Lee said. "We are very lucky here to be able to offer this type of technology to clients."