Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation to Fund 17 Projects in 2009

The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation will fund 17 research projects in 2009, totaling over $800,000.
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The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation will fund 17 research projects in 2009, totaling over $800,000.

March 16, 2009 -- The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation announced March 13 that it will fund 17 projects in 2009 and that Dr. Paul Lunn of Colorado State University has been elected to succeed Dr. Larry Bramlage as the chairman of its Research Advisory Committee.

The 17 projects, totaling $874,894, were approved at a recent meeting of the foundation board of directors. They will address a broad spectrum of issues, including improved tracking of injuries to Thoroughbreds in training.

The 2009 research funding brings the foundation's recent totals to more than $16.3 million to fund 246 projects at three dozen universities since 1983.

Dr. Bramlage, the noted orthopedic surgeon, served as chairman of the Research Advisory Committee for 11 years, but stepped down recently because of time constraints involving his surgical obligations and the various industry service initiatives in which he participates. Dr. Bramlage remains a member of the foundation board of directors.

Dr. Lunn is a professor and the head of the Department of Clinical Sciences at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at Colorado State University. Before moving to Colorado in 2003, Dr. Lunn worked as an equine medicine faculty member and teaching hospital director at the School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Lunn has specialized recently in equine immunology and infectious disease and has been a recipient of various Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation grants.

The 32-person Research Advisory Committee carefully evaluates all projects submitted to the foundation and recommends to the board of directors which ones have the greatest potential impact while also representing excellent science.

Among the 17 funded projects is a project on stem cell treatment of suspensory desmitis, which was selected by the board to receive the third annual ElastikonT Equine Research Award. This award recognizes an annual contribution made by the Consumer Products Division of Johnson & Johnson, manufacturer of Elastikon tape and other equine products.

In addition to funding the 17 research projects, the board also awarded the Storm Cat Career Development Award to Melissa King, a Ph.D. graduate student at Colorado State. King will be working with Dr. Wayne McIlwraith on a study of the role of underwater treadmill exercise in diminishing the development of osteoarthritis.

The $15,000 Storm Cat Career Development Award is underwritten by a board member, Lucy Young Hamilton, and is named for the leading sire Storm Cat, which stood at her family's Overbrook Farm.

Following are summaries of the funded projects beginning in 2009, followed by a list of two-year projects begun in 2008.

Incidence of Non-Fatal Injuries in Racing Thoroughbreds

Dr. Wayne McIlwraith, Colorado State University

This project is complementary to the Equine Injury DatabaseT launched after the first Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summit held by The Jockey Club and the foundation. It addresses the fact that many injuries occur in training or are discovered after the fact of racing and thus would not be included in the national database of on-track injuries. Four veterinarians representing a large percentage of Southern California stables have agreed to report injuries for central collection. The hypotheses are 1) objective collection of injury data will allow estimation of incidence and type of non-fatal injuries, and 2) these data will be used to evaluate the effects of racetrack surface characteristics and management on the type and incidence of non-fatal injuries.

A New Approach for Speedy Diagnosis of Botulism

Dr. Robert H. Whitlock, University of Pennsylvania

More than two dozen botulism outbreaks are anticipated annually, and the disease is frequently fatal. The increasing use of large round hay bales increases the danger of botulism in the equine population throughout North America. Routine current diagnosis requires up to three weeks. By converting from standard microbiological methods to molecular biology-based assays (PCR assay), these researchers seek to create a marked decrease in the time it takes to diagnose botulism. Survival of botulism depends on treatment with antitoxin as soon as possible, so speedier diagnosis should enhance survival rates.

Prevention of Equine Herpes Virus-1 Myseloencephalitis by Delayed Therapy
Dr. Lara Maxwell, Oklahoma State University
This study will seek to determine whether drug therapy can be effective if applied in barns where Equine Herpes Virus-1 has gone unidentified until horses are in the latter stages of infection. At that stage of infection, neurological disease can be expected to develop within a few days. This research team has found that the antiviral drug valacyclovir is effective if administered early in the course of the infection, and this new project is designed to help protect horses from developing crippling disease and also in reducing the contagious period of the infection.

Stem Cell Treatment for Suspensory Desmitis (ElastikonT Equine Research Award)
Dr. Robert Schneider, Washington State University
Injury to the proximal suspensory ligament of the hind limb is a common cause of lameness, and no treatment exists that can allow a high percentage of horses to return to normal. Mesenchymal stem cells, obtained from bone marrow, are being used to treat various ligament and tendon injuries in horses, but the practice is still in the pioneering stages. This project will test whether treatment with the stem cells will improve healing as compared to rest alone. Also, it will test the hypothesis that MRI will evaluate healing more accurately than ultrasound.

Antiviral Drugs to Combat Equine Herpes Virus-1 Infection
Dr. Arthur Frampton, University of North Carolina-Wilmington
Equine Herpes Virus-1 continues to be a major problem, which can result in paralysis and, in the case of pregnant mares, abortion. While a number of research projects on EHV-1 are ongoing, there is not an effective long-lasting vaccine, so horses are subjected to repeated vaccination. This proposal seeks a solution other than vaccination, i.e., that a better approach might be surveillance and health monitoring coupled with antiviral drugs after EHV-1 infection. This approach would seek to lessen significantly the possibility of an infected horse becoming paralyzed or aborting. Many horses recover from EHV-1, and the treatment protocol suggested here could be expected to improve that rate.

Developing Equine Bone Morphogenetic Protein for Cartilage & Bone Repair
Dr. Matthew Stewart, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne
Bone morphogenetic protein 2 has been effective in human medicine for fracture repair and spinal fusions. This project seeks to develop an equine BMP-2 gene therapeutic reagent and demonstrate that it can be applied to stimulate accelerated bone formation and cartilage repair. Another noted researcher, Dr. Mark Markel, recently observed that "there are currently no groups producing sufficient quantities of equine BMP-2 necessary for clinical applications." The above project is designed to help fill that need.

Prevention of Placentitis-Induced Labor in Mares
Dr. Peter L. Ryan, Mississippi State University
This study will establish information for development of drug treatment that can prevent pre-term birth in mares affected by placentitis. This would reduce the incidence of foals born with neurological compromise. The hypothesis is that combination of antibiotics and immunomodulatory drugs (i.e., progestins, aspirin, corticosteroids) can overcome the problem and result in a normal foal.

TWO-YEAR PROJECTS BEGUN IN 2008:

Hydrocortisone Replacement Therapy in Septic Foals

Dr. Michelle Henry Barton, University of Georgia

Does Airborne Exposure Predict Pneumonia?

Dr. Noah Cohen, Texas A&M University

Mapping Occlusion of Veins in EIPH

Dr. Fred Derksen, Michigan State University

Differentiated Stem Cells for Cartilage Repair
Dr. Alan Nixon, Cornell University

A Respiratory Model on Interactions of Virus and Host
Dr. Gisela Sobol, Colorado State University

Xenografting to Study Testicular Function in Stallions
Drs. Ina Dobrinski and Regina Turner, University of Pennsylvania

Neuropathogenesis of EHV-1 Infection
Dr. Lutz S. Goehring, Colorado State University

Molecular and Cellular Level Studies of Laminitis
Dr. Hannah Galantino-Homer, University of Pennsylvania

Mechanisms of Maintenance of Early Pregnancy
Dr. Keith Betteridge, Guelph University

Equine Cord Blood Stem Cells - From Farm to Point of Care
Dr. Dean Betts, Guelph University