Laminitis studies supported by AAEP Foundation

Posted: Sept. 19, 2016

The American Association of Equine Practitioners Foundation is providing financial support for two research projects investigating support-limb laminitis, in which lameness in one limb results in laminitis in the opposite limb.

Subsequent separation of the coffin bone from the hoof wall causes pain and eventually displacement, either coffin bone rotation or sinking, in the foot.

AAEP members have identified laminitis as the most important equine disease requiring research. Support-limb laminitis was the type of laminitis to which 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro succumbed while healing from a severe fracture in a hind limb.

In one study, Dr. Hana Galantino-Homer at the University of Pennsylvania will investigate the alterations that occur in the protein structure that supports the bone to the hoof connection. Foot specimens from horses affected by support-limb laminitis will be used to study how nutrient deprivation and subsequent production of abnormal proteins (keratins) affect the support structures within the hoof.

The goal is to understand the process of cell pathology in the foot to better predict, diagnose and treat support limb laminitis.

The second study, led by Dr. Samantha Brooks at the University of Florida, seeks to understand the response of the cells in the support structures within the hoof. By utilizing RNA sequencing, genes that respond to the abnormal support in the foot will be identified and compared to normal feet.

Understanding the gene upregulation will help identify the process within the hoof that leads to support failure. The research will use real-time PCR to identify the production of inflammatory mediators and enzymes involved with the pathology.

“The generosity of many enabled us to fund these projects that will advance the knowledge and help unravel the mysteries surrounding this insidious disease,” said Dr. Jeff Berk, chairman of the AAEP Foundation Advisory Council. “We are particularly grateful to Starlight Racing partners, whose matching funds challenge in 2014 in memory of its grade II winner Intense Holiday raised awareness and much-needed funds for the fight.”

Both studies will utilize the laminitis discovery database at the University of Pennsylvania, which has specimens from horses that succumbed to support-limb laminitis and from normal horses. The database includes a wealth of information about the affected horses.

The AAEP Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization created in 1994, serves as the charitable arm of the AAEP to improve the welfare of the horse. Since its inception, the foundation has disbursed more than $3.7 million to support its mission.