GENE DELIVERY APPROACH WITH AMH FOR SINGLE-DOSE LIFETIME CONTRACEPTION IN FEMALE CATS

Presented by Philippe Godin, DVM, PhD and Lindsey Vansandt, DVM, PhD

On September 21, 2023 BIWFC presented the webinar, “Gene Delivery Approach With Amh for Single-Dose Lifetime Contraception in Female Cats,” which looks at a recent study of a novel non-surgical contraceptive for female domestic cats. Webinar presenters included Philippe Godin, DVM, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and Lindsey Vansandt, DVM, PhD, Director of the Imperiled Cat Signature Project at the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. 

It is currently estimated that eighty percent of the 600 million domestic cats in the world are stray. These cats typically experience reduced welfare as they are more likely to contract infectious diseases and to be involved in traffic accidents. Free-roaming cats are also putting a significant predation pressure on many species of small wildlife. Additionally, euthanasia of healthy cats in overpopulated shelters raises ethical concerns.

Surgical sterilization is the main strategy used for stray population control worldwide. However, ovariohysterectomy, the surgical removal of the ovaries and uterus, requires specialized equipment, trained personnel, and postoperative care, which limits the scalability of this approach. There is therefore a pressing need for non-surgical contraceptive alternatives that are efficient, fast-acting, and easier to implement for population control.

In this webinar, Drs. Godin and Vansandt presented the findings of a recent proof-of-concept study that demonstrate the safety and efficacy of a novel non-surgical contraceptive in female domestic cats. This contraceptive is based on the adeno-associated viral vector (AAV) delivery of an Anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) transgene. Two years after a single intra-muscular delivery of the contraceptive, none of the treated females achieved clinical pregnancy while all control females gave birth to healthy litters. Only a third of the contracepted females allowed breeding by a male during this period. No adverse reactions were observed during regular health checks. This gene therapy approach may provide a rapid, minimally invasive, and easily applied option to induce lifelong contraception for stray female domestic cats.


ABOUT THE PRESENTERS


Philippe Godin, DMV, PhD, is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and holds a Ph.D. in Veterinary Sciences with a specific focus on ovarian physiology (both at the University of Montreal). His dissertation focused on the characterization of the cellular signaling during the ovulation process. He is currently appointed as a postdoctoral fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. He is working on the development and testing of anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH)-based contraceptives in female domestic cats. He combines his expertise on folliculogenesis and ovulation with his veterinary background to improve the current therapies and to better understand their mechanism of action in vivo.

Lindsey Vansandt, DVM, PhD, is Director of the Imperiled Cat Signature Project at the Center for Conservation and Research of Endangered Wildlife (CREW) at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden. After graduating from the University of Missouri’s School of Veterinary Medicine, Lindsey spent a year at the Saint Louis Zoo performing a research internship. She then obtained a PhD in Animal Sciences at the University of Maryland in collaboration with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, studying spermatogonial stem cells and their applications in wildlife conservation as an alternative source for genetic preservation of rare and endangered felids. Lindsey joined CREW in the fall of 2014 and her research focuses on two main areas: applying assisted reproductive technologies for the conservation and propagation of wild felids, and improving the health and welfare of free-roaming and sheltered cats. During Lindsey’s tenure at CREW, she has produced the first sand cat kittens and jaguar cub ever born from artificial insemination and currently serves as the Reproductive Advisor for the sand cat and Amur leopard Species Survival Plans. Lindsey sits on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Michelson Prize & Grants in Reproductive Biology Program  and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Reproductive Management Center Advisory Board. Additionally, she is the Medical Director of a non-profit small animal veterinary clinic that provides low-cost wellness services to low-income families.