Joint fluid biomarker search to further canine quality of life

6 December 2023

Sebastian Gri­ffin provides some insight into his BSAVA PetSavers-funded research entitled Evaluation of synovial cytokine concentrations in dogs with degenerative joint disease, immune-mediated polyarthritis and septic arthritis.

This research project involves Mark Dunning from the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at the University of Nottingham and the team at the Veterinary Pathology Group. Mark delivers lectures, practical classes and facilitated sessions at the University of Nottingham in the clinical modules and he previously ran the final year small animal referral rotation for veterinary students, which focussed on developing clinical reasoning skills and practical techniques. Mark’s interest in research lies in the development of non-invasive diagnostic techniques and the validation of point-of care testing to expand the possibilities for diagnosis and management within primary-care practice. Mark is the supervisor for this PetSavers funded project and is providing oversight and helping the project meet its objectives by offering guidance and support. The Veterinary Pathology Group provides a service covering all aspects of clinical pathology and microbiology and a comprehensive offering in serology, immunology, PCR testing and toxicology. They have an excellent reputation for expertise in cytology, immunocytochemistry, histopathology and histochemistry. The Veterinary Pathology Group is storing the samples for this project and performing the testing requirements.

Septic arthritis, degenerative joint disease and immune-mediated polyarthritis are painful diseases that can have a devastating impact on the quality of life of affected dogs, and in some cases results in euthanasia. The goal of this research project is to identify a biomarker or panel of biomarkers that can be measured in synovial fluid to distinguish between, and help prognosticate in, immune-mediated polyarthritis, septic arthritis and degenerative joint disease. By improving the range of diagnostics available, affected dogs will be able to access treatment sooner, have more targeted therapies and benefit from significantly improved welfare and long-term prognosis.

The study involves analysing concentrations of C-reactive protein, calprotectin, haptoglobin, lactoferrin, serum amyloid A and procalcitonin in synovial fluid samples from canine patients diagnosed with either septic arthritis, degenerative joint disease, or immune-mediated polyarthritis, by routine methods. Limited research has investigated the measuring of synovial biomarkers in a diagnostic capacity and to prognosticate, so this study will contribute greatly to the evidence base around canine arthritides. By analysing these biomarkers in the joint fluid of affected canine patients, the study will investigate if any significant differences are present that can be used to aid rapid, possibly in-clinic, diagnosis of these debilitating conditions.

A big challenge in this project was finding the funding for sample testing, and the authors are very grateful to BSAVA PetSavers for supporting them with a Clinical Research Project grant, without which the project would not be able to go ahead. Coordinating between different teams has also been challenging, and the demanding timeline has necessitated careful planning and organization. This project has helped to gain a deeper understanding of the role that biomarkers play in cases of joint disease. It has also helped to further develop problem-solving skills and combine them with critical thinking and analytical skills, together with considering the latest research and developments in the field. The study is at the stage of beginning to process samples and gather results before statistical analysis can begin.

If applying for BSAVA PetSavers funding, I would recommend reading all the supporting documents very carefully and make sure that the project is well planned and mapped out before application.


About the author

Sebastian Griffin BVetMed (Hons) CertAVP (SAM) PGCertVPS MRCVS, RCVS Advanced Practitioner in Small Animal Medicine, graduated from The Royal Veterinary College in 2015. He has spent the last 8 years working in first-opinion practice where he became interested in the role of practitioners in contributing to clinical research projects. His broad field is first-opinion small animal medicine with a particular interest in clinical pathology. He completed a Certificate in Advanced Veterinary Practice in Small Animal Medicine with the University of Liverpool in 2019, and in 2021 became registered as an Advanced Practitioner in Small Animal Medicine with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. He currently works as Lead Veterinary Surgeon for Medivet Fulham and previously worked as part of the Linnaeus Clinical Board from 2019–2022. Sebastian is currently studying for a Master’s in Clinical Research with BSAVA and this Evaluation of synovial cytokine concentrations in dogs with degenerative joint disease, immune-mediated polyarthritis and septic arthritis project forms part of the Master’s programme.