Scotland’s Rural College has developed an innovative new technology which detects heart disease in pets before they show any symptoms.
The technology uses a simple blood sample to detect heart disease in pets.
Heart problems affect around 10% of dogs and cats. The disease is becoming more common as pets live longer lives.
Vets can normally pick up the signs of heart disease using a stethoscope. However, these can only be detected when symptoms appear. Earlier tests involving an ECG are costly.
The new technology combines biomarkers with a bespoke AI model. This allows for early detection before the animal shows symptoms. With early diagnosis, vets can slow the progression of the illness.
“Our test can not only show if heart disease is present, it can show what type of heart disease the patient is suffering from,” explains Dr Eve Hanks, whose company MI:RNA developed the technology. “This leads to improved treatment, superior quality of life and longevity.”
NExtgen Mirna testing with Optimisation (or more catchily, NEMO) is now entering the commercial development phase.
It’s the brainchild of Scottish startup MI:RNA Ltd, a spin-off from Scotland’s Rural College. The biotech company was founded in 2019 and has already won a host of innovation awards, including the Scottish Enterprise Impact Award 2020.
While initially the test will be available for dogs and cats, the company is also hoping to make cardiac testing available for the equine market.
Benefits for farmers
The ambitious team behind NEMO don’t intend to stop there, and have set their sights on helping the agricultural sector too.
While the initial test focuses on blood samples, it could be tweaked to test milk, faeces, urine or saliva, paving the way for cheap and efficient mass testing.
The scientists are working on adapting the technology, with an initial focus on Johne’s disease – a contagious, and usually fatal, infection of the small intestine.
Dr Hanks says the business intends to expand globally to help owners, farmers, animals and the environment.
“The next few months are incredibly exciting for MI:RNA Ltd as we launch our first product,” says Dr Hanks. “Our team has pulled together to work towards a successful launch. Luckily, we have a great veterinary community behind us.
“We will continue our relationship with SRUC as we begin our production animal research and identify new disease targets.”