Assessment of dietary therapies in a canine model of Batten disease.
The neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCLs) are inherited neurodegenerative diseases that occur in a number of animal species, including dogs. A study was conducted to determine whether the resupply of nutrients lost in NCL English Setter dogs would modify the course of the disease. Carnitine and polyunsaturated fatty acids have been reported to be reduced in NCL English Setters. Therefore, the normal laboratory diets of NCL dogs were supplemented with carnitine, fish oil and corn oil and the disease progression was compared with that of an untreated litter mate. The following specific prognostic indicators of NCL were monitored: cognitive function, brain atrophy, brain glucose metabolism and lifespan. Carnitine, with or without lipid supplements, dramatically delayed the progression of cognitive decline in NCL dogs. When fish oil and corn oil only were supplied, brain atrophy was reduced. A combination of all three supplements preserved cognitive function and increased lifespan by 10%. However, brain glucose hypometabolism and cerebral atrophy were not reduced. The results in this study indicated that the effectiveness of therapeutic interventions can be assessed by non-invasive methods at a relatively early stage of the disease process. Our study suggests that dietary supplementation with carnitine is a promising new approach for delaying or preventing the cognitive decline in dogs, and perhaps, with human NCL patients.