Laminitis is a serious disease that affects thousands of horses in the UK and in many other countries. It also affects other large animals especially cattle, and is a disease with serious consequences. It can render an animal lame, and lead to their having to be put down. Even when an animal does not need to be euphonised, it still suffers greatly while the inflammation in their hooves is treated and many animals are left lame.
The disease causes inflammation in one or more of the layers that make up the hoof. There are many causes, and there are very few truly effective treatments.
Naturally, horse owners were relieved to hear that three new research projects into the disease are under way. The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation announced that they are to donate a total of $874,024 to 17 equine research projects, three of which are relevant to laminitis.
Dr. Hannah Galantino–Homer of the University of Pennsylvania is to receive funding for her research into biomarkers. She is hoping to use them to detect the early signs of Laminitis.
It is believed that some horses are more prone to the disease than others. In addition, there is some evidence that prior to an outbreak some molecule changes take place. Recognising these changes will help with the early detection of the disease. If Laminitis is diagnosed at an extremely early stage, it can actually be treated, saving the animal a lot of pain and suffering.
Dr. James Belknap of The Ohio State University also gets funding. By far the most serious form of laminitis develops in the supporting limb of a horse that has suffered an injury in another limb. Around 50% of horses that suffer from this form of Laminitis have to be put down, so his research is extremely important.
Dr. Alan Nixon of Cornell University wants to use his stem cell research to help with the treatment of Laminitis. Research shows that the delivery of healthy cells to the affected area can help the body to fight the infection and reduce inflammation. In the long term, stem cell treatments could be used to treat the whole spectrum of inflammatory diseases including arthritis.