What is feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)?

Feline hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) affects about one in seven cats and is often fatal.

It is prevalent within Maine Coon, Ragdoll, British Shorthair, Sphynx, Chartreux and Persian cats.

This disease causes the muscular walls of a cat’s heart, specifically the heart’s left ventricle and its primary ‘pump muscle’, to thicken which decreases the heart’s efficiency and causes the heart to beat more rapidly.  This results in increased oxygen usage and oxygen starvation of the heart muscle, which in turn causes heart cells to die off, worsening heart function.

HCM can lead to a backup of blood to the other chambers of the heart and to the lungs, which contributes to the development of heart failure or the formation of life-threatening blood clots in the heart.  Cats with HCM are at risk for sudden death.

Pluripotent stem cells can self-renew and turn into any other type of cell in the body.

Researching hypertrophic cardiomyopathy in cats

Our research aims to investigate whether regenerative medicine can develop viable drug therapies to treat this horrible disease. Working with the Royal Veterinary College, we will grow Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) from samples of skin or blood cells taken from adult cats diagnosed with HCM. Because these cells can self-renew, we can turn them into heart cells in our laboratories and use them to learn more about the disease. We anticipate that by using this cell-based model we can accelerate drug discovery and screening for treatment, helping to improve the prognosis for millions of cats.

There is currently no way of preventing HCM from occurring or progressing. We believe that by using techniques we have developed through our stem cell research, we can learn much more about this disease and ultimately test the suitability of new medicines.

Dr Debbie Guest
Dr Debbie Guest, Head of Stem Cell Research

1 in 7 1 in 7 cats are affected with HCM in the UK

1.2 million 1.2 million cats are affected with HCM in the UK

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Research lead

Dr Debbie Guest

Dr Debbie Guest

Head of Stem Cell Research

Debbie’s research aims to utilise stem cells in veterinary medicine both for therapeutic applications and as a tool to study inherited diseases.

Read Dr Debbie Guest's bio