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Vet Gazette

Oregon State University College of Veterinary Medicine eNewsletter

Student Research Gets To The Heart Of Things

September 29th, 2016
Rachael Cunningham's 3-D model of a dog heart shows the arteries.

Rachael Cunningham’s 3-D model of a dog heart shows the arteries.

Rachel Cunningham (Class of 2018) worked this summer with Dr. Susanne Stieger-Vanegas creating a 3-D model of canine coronary arteries.

“I looked at a specific congenital abnormality in the coronary arteries of dogs, seen mostly in English Bulldogs, where one of the coronary arteries originates in the wrong place and wraps around the pulmonary artery,” she said.

Cunningham used CT scans from hospital cases, and 3-D modeling software (partially funded by the Camden Endowment) to make the images. She was happy to be assigned this topic for her summer project because she is interested in cardiology. “This is something I really want to know about,” she said.

The project involved a steep learning curve but had several payoffs . “I’ve seen CTs before,” she said, “but not like this. I had to learn how to read CTs in order to produce the models. Now I can identify abnormal CT images of the heart.” She also has a deeper understanding of heart anatomy. “I really understand the three dimensional anatomy of the heart a whole lot better. You can read in a textbook what Tetralogy of Fallot is, but to actually see it is a different thing.”

Cunningham’s favorite part of the project was working with Dr. Stieger-Vanegas. “I really liked having her as a source of knowledge and education.”

Paige Ganster (Class of 2019) also worked with Dr. Stieger-Vanegas this summer. She came to veterinary college with many years’ experience working as a veterinary technician, and felt working in a hospital was not the best use of her summer. “I had no experience in research so this was an opportunity to dip my toes in and see if it is something that interests me.”

Ganster ‘s project also involved using CT scans to create 3-D models, but for a different species. “Prior research has found that there is a higher prevalence of congenital abnormalities in camelids compared to other species,” says Ganster. “I am segmenting the camelid heart to create 3-D models that show those defects.” The case studies used in this project were funded by a grant given to Dr. Stieger-Vanegas by the Northwest Camelid Foundation.

All the models will be used for teaching, and eventually could be used for surgical planning. “Cardiac, 3-D modeling allows us to evaluate complex cardiac structures,” says Dr. Stieger-Vanegas. “We want to produce printable models that can be used to plan interventional procedures.”

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