Kate Hsuen-Wen Chang, an international student from Taiwan at the university’s School of Veterinary Science in Werribee, will graduate with a PhD in veterinary science on Saturday.
She has developed a new method of determining dog blood types, which will enable them to have more than one blood transfusion over a lifetime.
Ms Chang’s supervisor Associate Professor Ian Walker said Kate’s research was the first of its kind and had the potential to revolutionise canine veterinary practice – particularly in emergency clinics.
Associate Professor Walker said that unlike humans, there was currently no easy, reliable method of determining a dog’s blood type.
Dogs can safely receive one blood transfusion but after that, many will develop antibodies to other dogs’ blood types.
This meant they were at great risk of rejecting blood given to them if they had to receive more than one transfusion.
So, for example, if a dog who had previously had a transfusion in an operation was later hit by a car, the second transfusion – rather than being lifesaving – was likely to kill them.
Ms Chang’s research – Three approaches to canine blood group polymorphism – used genetically engineered antibodies to identify different canine blood types and was the first step in developing widely available diagnostic tests.
“In an emergency clinic – like the one we have in Werribee – having a readily available way of testing blood types would benefit hundreds of dogs a year,’’ Associate Professor Walker said.
It would also enable the canine blood bank at Werribee to know the blood types of all its donor dogs. This would greatly reduce the risks of recipient dogs developing antibodies during their first transfusion.
Ms Chang’s supervisors – Dr Steven Holloway and Assoc Professor Ian Walker – volunteered their own dogs, Puddles, a golden retriever, and Annie, a kelpie cross, to provide blood samples for the research.
The antibodies developed by Ms Chang only recognised Puddles and not Annie.
Ms Chang found that Annie had a rare blood type which placed her at risk of developing antibodies if she were to receive a blood transfusion.
Ms Chang developed artificial antibodies in tiny viruses called bacteriophages.
Associate Professor Walker said the bacteriophage method allowed the antibodies to be developed without immunising animals such as mice and rabbits, a method which previous research has proved to be unreliable.
The School of Veterinary Science is currently seeking corporate backing to further expand on the research and develop a commercial diagnostic test.