Morris Animal Foundation
Since its inception, USA Equestrian Trust has been a strong supporter of equine scientific research, serving as a major source of funding of the United States Equestrian Federation’s Equine Health Research Fund. In 2011, the Trust’s board decided to expand its support of equine research beyond the excellent work done by USEF to other worthy organizations.
The Trust granted $10,000 to the Denver-based Morris Animal Foundation to support research into the crippling disease laminitis. A team of researchers led by Dr. Samuel J. Black, a professor in the Department of Veterinary & Animal Sciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, have been researching the presence of an enzyme in horses suffering from the disease.
To offer a look at the disease and how it occurs, Dr. Black offered this description of his research, “Horses, like ballerinas, stand on their toes. In each hoof, the final toe bone, the distal phalanx, is attached to the hoof capsule by a very hard working tissue called the digital laminae. The digital laminae is a two-layer tissue that spans between the outer surface of the distal phalanx and the inner surface of the hoof capsule, thus suspending the entire body weight of the horse within the hoof capsule. During laminitis, the epidermal and dermal layers of one or both front hoof laminae, and sometimes all hoofs, separate, causing the affected distal phalanx to rotate and sink within the hoof capsule and to press on the sole of the hoof. This results in painful and often crippling lameness.”
Dr. Black and his team of researchers have examined a certain enzyme’s presence in both healthy and laminitic laminae. As their work continues, they plan to develop an in vitro model of laminitis in which they can test the impact of inhibitors of the enzyme in question.
“We are excited that our work is contributing to a fundamental understanding of equine digital laminae and structure and function,” Dr. Black said. “We hope it will also contribute to the development of new therapeutic options for laminitis.”
The Trust’s board recently reaffirmed its commitment to the Morris Animal Foundation, approving an additional $10,000 in grant funding in May 2012 to study treatments for equine herpesvirus, one of the major uncontrolled pathogens of the horse worldwide. The virus can cause abortions and severe neurological diseases, two syndromes that usually follow respiratory disease, and can affect large numbers of horses.
“Morris Animal Foundation is thankful for the continued support from USA Equestrian Trust,” said Morris Animal Foundation CEO/President Dr. David Haworth. “It’s partnerships like this that help us work to give horses longer, healthier lives.”
Photos courtesy Morris Animal Foundation: Researchers Le Wang and Erica Pawlak in the laboratory and also with Xena, one of the University of Massachusetts’ Morgan horses.