Researchers target surgery-free way to solve pet overpopulation
Up to 8 million cats and dogs enter U.S. shelters each year and about half are euthanized, according to the Found Animals Foundation. Hopefully, that number is about to decrease dramatically. University of Virginia researchers could win a $25 million prize if they develop a nonsurgical method for sterilizing cats and dogs.
The Found Animals Foundation—a non-profit organization based in Los Angeles—is seeking a low-cost, nonsurgical method to sterilize large populations of cats and dogs there by reducing the number of homeless and unwanted animals killed each year in shelters. UVa researchers are one of 12 teams approved for a Michelson Grant—a stepping stone to the prize designed to foster promising research in this area. After UVa completed phase one of the grant, the Found Animals Foundation awarded the university with $200,000.
The UVa team is targeting immature egg cells before they mature into eggs that can be fertilized. Specifically, the researchers will use tiny viruses to identify a biomarker for these cells and then develop a drug that targets only those cells. A new class of biological drugs the researchers call "oolysins" may one day have implications for human fertility and contraceptive development.
Animal sterilization has long been recognized as an integral solution to the problem of overpopulation. If the UVa team meets the project's first-year milestones, they'll receive additional funding to advance their research to find a sterilization solution.