The board of directors of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation has authorized funding of 22 equine research projects for a total of $777,524 in the year 2002. The scientific research addresses various important issues of horse health, including mare reproductive loss syndrome (MRLS), laminitis, athletic soundness, and cutting-edge use of adult stem cells for cartilage repair. The 22 projects will be conducted simultaneously at 16 universities in the United States and Canada.
Nine of the projects are two year-grants entering their second year, while 13 are one- or two-year grants being begun in 2002.
Following are descriptions of the new grants, to be launched in
2002:ROLE OF INTESTINAL DISEASE AS A CAUSE OF LAMINITIS
Dr. Philip Johnson, University of Missouri. First year, $55,360
Laminitis (founder) continues to be one of the most common and baffling lameness issues in horses and frequently results in humane destruction. Recent work on laminitis has given rise to an hypothesis which this project will probe further. Namely, overgrowth of a specific bacteria (Streptococcus bovis) in the large intestine is thought to be associated with production of toxins which can cause laminitis. HORMONAL FUNCTION IN MARES SUFFERING FROM MRLS
Dr. Dietrich H. Volkmann, Cornell University. $13,150
MRLS (Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome) is the name associated with whatever caused thousands of early and late term abortions in 2001. The underlying causes of the problem are not understood. This project is designed to evaluate changes in reproductive hormones during the outbreak, using cases that were sampled before, during, and after the occurrence. ACTIVITY OF GENES, AS RELATES TO DISEASES CAUSED BY A COMMON CATEGORY OF BACTERIA
Dr. Michael L. Vandenplas, University of Georgia. First year, $37,000
This project seeks a new direction in addressing gram-positive bacteria, which are associated with pneumonia, strangles, septic arthritis, etc. Relatively little research has been accomplished to examine the role of specific gram-positive bacterial cell wall toxins in these diseases. The researchers will be the first to address that question by using a functional genetic approach that will allow them to follow simultaneously the activity of 2,000 equine genes in the disease process.RESPIRATORY IMMUNE RESPONSE IN YOUNG FOALS
Dr. David W. Horohov, Louisiana State University. First year, $57,680
The goal of this project is to better characterize the immunity status of the foal's respiratory system. STUDY OF BACTERIA ASSOCIATED WITH MRLS
Dr. James M. Donahue, University of Kentucky. One-year grant $22,300
As research on mare reproductive loss syndrome continues on various fronts, this project will respond to the fact that bacteria were recovered from most of the fetuses collected at the Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center. The goals are to identify the type and origins of the bacteria species involved and determine what (antimicrobial) agents can be useful for treatment.ADDRESSING POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS OF USE OF PHENYLBUTAZONE
Dr. Rebecca McConnico, Louisiana State University. First year, $51,551
Phenylbutazone is one of the most commonly used medications in horses. It is generally thought to be well-tolerated by horses at recommended dosage and frequency. However, the medication also has been associated with several adverse side-effects, including stomach ulcers, kidney dysfunction, and inflammation/ulceration of the large colon (right dorsal colitis, or RDC). Diagnosis is difficult due to the vagueness of clinical signs, and it is postulated that only severe cases are reported, skewing available frequency data. The specific mechanism of whatever colon damage might be caused by phenylbutazone has not been determined. Meanwhile, advice is inconsistent from one veterinarian to another, and the researchers state that they are unaware of data supporting either of the most commonly prescribed dietary recommendations. This study will evaluate various clinical signs and specific phenomena with the intent of discovering mechanisms related to RDC and developing methods to help treat and prevent that condition.USE OF STEM CELLS FOR CARTILAGE REPAIR TO COMBAT ARTHRITIS AND STRESS-INDUCED BREAKDOWN
Dr. Alan J. Nixon, Cornell University. First year, $50,749.
Stems cells answer the body's call for repair of tissues such as muscle, tendon, bone, and fat as well as cartilage. The specific aim of this project is to use stem-cell based cartilage resurfacing to lessen arthritis and stress-induced fetlock breakdown.ELECTRICAL TREATMENT FOR HEART RHYTHM DISTURBANCE
Dr. P. W. Physick-Sheard, University of Guelph. $8,396
When horses experience heart rhythm disturbance (atrial fibrillation), they are rendered useless as athletes of any sort if the condition cannot be corrected. Although commonly used therapies for atrial fibrillation have a high success rate, they also tend to cause adverse side effects. Treatment of atrial fibrillation in humans has been developed utilizing small electrical shock via special catheters threaded through veins and into the heart. This project now proposes to extend that treatment approach to horses. PRODUCTION OF SYNTHETIC HORMONES ESSENTIAL FOR FERTILITY
Dr. Janet F. Roser, University of California-Davis. $51,000
The long-term goal of this project is to provide a continuous supply of two reproductive hormones that can be used as breeding management tools. These two hormones, follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone, are essential for stimulating follicle development in the mare and sperm production in the stallion. Since the natural source of these hormones is the equine brain, it is difficult to obtain and purify supplies for use in cases where individuals are deficient. This project seeks to utilize molecular biology technology which takes the DNA of the hormone and inserts it into a biological cell line able to produce the hormone in the laboratory. The researchers will test the efficacy of the resulting synthetic (recombinant) hormones.ACCELERATED RETURN TO BREEDING NORMALCY AFTER FETAL LOSS
Dr. Douglas Antczak, Cornell University. First year, $44,705
Mares which abort during early gestation (40-80 days) are at high risk of maintaining the hormonal state associated with pregnancy even after the fetal loss. This project seeks to speed their return to normal cycling and thus allow re-breeding.EFFECT OF AIRWAY INFLAMMATION AND MUCUS
Dr. Susan Holcombe, Michigan State University. First year, $30,918
The long-range goal of this research team is to understand how inflammation in the throat and trachea affects performance. The program in this specific project is to measure the airway inflammation and mucus in a large group of Thoroughbreds and correlate it to performance. FUNCTIONAL ANALYSES OF SPECIFIC ARTERIES INVOLVED WITH LAMINITIS
Dr. John F. Peroni, University of Georgia. First year, $23,100
This research team believes itself to be the first to isolate small arteries of the laminae for functional study. The hypothesis is that the arteries to be studied in addressing laminitis are those directly involved in the disease process, i. e., small arteries located in the front portion of the hoof. ALTERED DOSE PATTERN OF FUROSEMIDE FOR PATIENTS WITH EXCESSIVE FLUIDS
Dr. Sarah Gardner, North Carolina State University. One-year grant, $14,987
This project addresses the use of furosemide to remove excessive accumulations of various of the bodily fluids, a condition often life-threatening. The researchers will study the effect of continuous rate of infusion as a treatment compared to the commonly used treatmentstrategy with horses of intermittent doses.