Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation Research Funding for 2022

US-based research in equine lameness continues to move forward with today's announcement of new and continuing projects to be funded in 2022 by the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation.

The Foundation announced today that it has authorized expenditure of $1,661,180 to fund 15 new projects and 10 continuing projects at 16 universities as well as three career development awards. The 2022 slate of research brings Grayson’s totals since 1983 to more than $32.1 million to underwrite 412 projects at 45 universities.

Here's what to expect from studies related to equine lameness funded by Grayson this year--and who will be conducting them:

Development of a Palmar Osteochondral Disease Model
Chris Kawcak, Colorado State University
The goal of this proposal is to develop an experimental model of palmar osteochondral disease in horses to better study disease progression and facilitate development of improved treatment strategies.

From Dr. Kawcak's summary: "Our goal is to develop a model of POD (Palmar Osteochondral Disease) in horses that will allow us to better study the progression of disease and develop suitable treatment strategies. If successful, future studies using this model may also allow us to identify thresholds in the intensity or duration of training and racing that lead to the formation of POD. This information would better enable trainers to optimize a horse’s career while reducing the risk for injury. The success of this technique would also give us a way to test the effects of novel treatment strategies at various stages of disease so that we can help preserve the well-being and athletic potential of our patients."

Immunomodulation and Exosomes to Enhance Tendon Healing
Sushmitha Durgam, The Ohio State University
This study aims to characterize M1 and M2 macrophage-derived inflammatory factors and assess their impact on superficial digital flexor tendon tenocyte activities while examining the potential of extracellular vesicles/exosomes to enhance tendon healing.

From the synopsis by Dr Durgam, "(Superficial digital flexor tendon) SDFT injuries are one of the most common reasons for retirement in Thoroughbred racehorses. Despite requiring prolonged periods for healing, the ‘healed’ tendons are fibrotic and results in high incidence of re-injuries. Growing evidence suggests that immunomodulation is an effective strategy to improve the quality of tendon repair. Macrophages are key immune cells that modulate inflammation, pain during healing and therefore, this research will characterize macrophage-derived inflammation, and identify biological/cellular mechanisms affecting tenocyte activity and, subsequently contribute to tendon degeneration during healing. This research is will also help evaluate the beneficial effects of a novel off-the-shelf biologics/ regenerative therapy for tendon healing as several recent studies have demonstrated that immunomodulation is key mechanism to enhance tendon healing. Collectively, this work will impact develop therapies that can improve tendon injury outcomes in horses."

Motion of the Proximal Sesamoid Bones on Uneven Footing
Susan Stover, University of California, Davis
This study proposes to determine how hoof conformation, shoeing, and uneven racetrack surfaces could contribute to fetlock breakdowns.

Dr Stover describes her research: "Both proximal sesamoid bone and cannon bone condylar fractures have typical fracture configurations that indicate they result from specific limb loading circumstances. Motions of the P1 and of the proximal sesamoid bones relative to the cannon bone outside of fetlock flexion and extension are consistent with these fracture configurations that occur in Thoroughbred racehorses. Medial proximal sesamoid bone fracture is associated with development of a weak spot against the opposing cannon bone that is the likely consequence of a specific limb loading condition that promotes rotation of the medial proximal sesamoid bone into the cannon bone.

"We have observed this motion during fetlock extension at gallop loads in our laboratory. We believe this motion will be exacerbated by unbalanced hoof trimming, lateral wedge horseshoes, and uneven race surfaces (such as banked racetracks and unharrowed footing). Racetrack surfaces in the United States are banked in the straights for drainage and in the turns. If our hypothesis is supported, hoof trimming, shoeing, and racetrack design recommendations could be made to prevent fetlock injuries."

Sirolimus for the Control of Insulin Dysregulation
Andrew Van Eps, University of Pennsylvania 
This study will evaluate the drug sirolimus (a potent suppressor of insulin production) for the treatment of insulin dysregulation (the most important cause of laminitis) in horses.

Dr Van Eps describes his study: "We hypothesize that treatment with sirolimus will prevent high blood glucose in response to ingested carbohydrate in horses with both experimentally-induced and naturally-occurring ID and will be safe and well tolerated. Using an established experimental model of ID, we will test the effects of 2 different dose rates of oral sirolimus on insulin dynamics in response to oral sugar challenge. We will then test the effects of oral sirolimus treatment in horses with naturally-occurring ID using a randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study. Blood sirolimus concentrations as well as hematological parameters and serial clinical evaluations will be used to monitor for any adverse effects. 

"We anticipate that this study will provide fundamental information on the efficacy and safety of sirolimus for the treatment of ID in horses. In line with our preliminary data, we expect that sirolimus therapy will rapidly and profoundly suppress insulin production in response to ingested sugar, without causing adverse effects. The results of this study have the potential to drive the development of novel treatments for insulin control and prevention of laminitis in the horse."

• • • • • 

In addition, the Storm Cat Career Development Award, inaugurated in 2006, grants $20,000 to an individual considering a career in equine research. One of the recipients will be Dr. Sarah K. Shaffer from the University of California, Davis. Dr. Shaffer’s research project is “Linking Training to Stress-Reactions in Racehorse Bones” and will be conducted under the mentorship of Dr. Susan Stover.

Grayson's Elaine and Bertram Klein Career Development Award, which grants $20,000 to a prospective equine researcher, will be given to Dr. Bruno C. Menarim from the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky. Dr. Menarim’s current research focuses on “PPAR-y Activation in the Treatment of Joint Inflammation” and will be conducted under the mentorship of Dr. James MacLeod.

Other studies focused on anti-microbial resistance, strangles vaccine, placentitis, fetal-derived stem cells, a vaccine against equine rotavirus A G3 and G14,  the use of a human immunosuppressant drug for equine immune-mediated disease, antibiotic effects on the equine microbiome, the use of fentanyl patches for equine pain, and three studies on Rhodococcus equi infection in foals.

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