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News Article

Equine laminitis: rethink of research strategies

Laminitis is now considered to be a syndrome that most commonly results from endocrine disease.

A review published in The Veterinary Journal highlights paradigm shifts in the understanding of equine laminitis, with suggestions as to future research avenues.

For the past decade, researchers at the University of Liverpool, led by Professor Cathy McGowan from the University's Department of Equine Clinical Science and Institute of Aging and Chronic Disease, have systematically investigated laminitis caused by hormonal dysregulation, endocrine laminitis.

Their research showed laminitis was directly caused by insulin, which overturned previous held theories of laminitis. This finding, together with other recent developments in the field of laminitis research, has provoked a rethink of clinical and research strategies for this condition.

In the review article, McGowan, Janet Patterson-Kane (Flagship Biosciences, USA) and Ninja Karikoski (University of Helsinki) highlight three major advances in the understanding of laminitis.

First, laminitis is now considered to be a clinical syndrome associated with a disease that affects a number of organs and tissues, or affects the body as a whole (systemic) or altered weight bearing rather than being a discrete disease entity.

Second, laminitis associated with the endocrine system, endocrine laminitis, is now believed to be the predominant form in animals presenting (primarily) for lameness.

These simple but important paradigm shifts have several implications, the main one being that an accurate diagnosis of the associated systemic disease (most commonly endocrine disease) would be pivotal for laminitis management, prognosis and the prevention of recurrence.

Third, a series of histological studies showed that under the microscope, the changes in the hoof lamellae were subtle in comparison with previous descriptions and most importantly, there was evidence of a prolonged subclinical phase in at least some horses, as evidenced by the development of divergent hoof rings visible on the hoof wall.

These hoof rings may signify a vital window of opportunity for horse owners and their veterinary surgeons to recognise and apply therapeutic intervention before painful laminitis occurs.

Under the microscope it was clear that instead of severe basement membrane failure (as had been proposed based on experimental models in severely systemically ill horses), stretching and elongation of the lamellar cells is an early and key event in the disease and this knowledge will inform research directions in the future.

Read article: Paradigm shifts in understanding equine laminitis by J.C. Patterson-Kane, N.P. Karikoski and C.M. McGowan, published in The Veterinary Journal (2018) vol. 231, pp. 33-40, doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2017.11.011

Article details

  • Date
  • 19 December 2017
  • Source
  • University of Liverpool
  • Subject(s)
  • Horses and other Equines