GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB)-- Over a decade of research has turned into a lifetime study for Dr. Amara Estrada.
"You start seeing diseases that are really frustrating you because you can't do anything for them and this was one of those diseases," University of Florida's Professor of Cardiology Dr. Amara Estrada said.
She is one of a three-person team of veterinary cardiology specialists who are conducting a first-ever lifetime study evaluating the influence of genetic mutations in Doberman Pinschers.
"Dobermans are very stoic animals, they are a very stoic breed," Estrada said. "They don't show any clinical signs until they're really sick."
A potentially fatal heart disease affects nearly half of all Doberman Pinschers. The disease is called Dilated Cardiomyopathy also known as DCM. That's when it is difficult for the heart to squeeze out blood.
"Dobermans are more affected by this disease because they have two specific mutation that are definitely involved in the contraction of the heart," Estrada said.
The inherited disease can cause sudden death or congestive heart failure.
More than 1,000 Dobermans have been evaluated over the years and Dr. Estrada said that one of the mutations directly affects mitochondrial function which can serve as a model to help researchers in human heart disease.
"It's the best of both worlds," Estrada said. "I get to help the breed but I also get to turn around an hopefully make a difference in the world and help human heart disease as well."
Researchers will see why the disease develops by looking at the Dobermans' environment and the food they eat.
"I hate giving up," Estrada said. "I don't want to admit failure. I want to figure out a new way around it and see if i can find a different way."
Dr. Estrada wants to help Dobermans with the disease live longer.
"I'd love to make a dent to how frequently we see it," Estrada said. "I'd also love to be able to give Dobermans who do develop the disease a survival rate of two years.