The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Foundation needs equine practitioners in the United States and Canada
to help gather data for its first study as part of the Laminitis Research Project.
According to the AAEP, "The Laminitis Research Project is designed to unite veterinarians and horse owners in a collaborative
effort to uncover new information about the causes, prevention and treatment of laminitis."
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The intent of the project, supported by both the AAEP Foundation and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., is to collect data
in a case-control study from first-time cases of pasture- or endocrinopathy-associated laminitis (PEAL) from equine practitioners
throughout the U.S. and Canada. The study coordinator Michelle Coleman, DVM, of Texas A&M University's College of Veterinary
Medicine says, "Our goal is to identify risk factors associated with the development of this form of the disease and to help
identify strategies for future research."
Noah Cohen, VMD, MPH, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, the principal investigator of the study, says, "It is our belief and hope that our
study of naturally occurring cases of PEAL will identify factors that can be further investigated as means for preventing
or controlling this form of laminitis. We are reliant on the goodwill and commitment of AAEP members in the United States
and Canada to help us obtain the necessary information and samples from affected horses and unaffected horses that will serve
History of the Laminitis Research Project
Likely one of the most frustrating diseases equine practitioners face, laminitis damages the critical laminae structures of
a horse's foot (Photo 1), often resulting in severe lameness and, in many cases, the need for humane euthanasia.
Photo 1: A radiograph of a horse’s foot with laminitis and resulting rotation of the distal phalanx (coffin bone). (Photo
courtesy of Dr. Nathaniel White.)
Laminitis has been identified consistently as the highest priority for research investigation and funding by AAEP members.
In fact, in two surveys in 2003 and 2009 conducted by the AAEP Foundation, AAEP members placed laminitis at the top of the
list for additional research. This project is a result of that request to focus on laminitis research.
The need to focus on epidemiological studies was first initiated by participants in the AAEP Foundation's Second Annual Laminitis
Workshop, held in November 2009. The AAEP Foundation then formed the Laminitis Working Group. This group initially met in
October 2010 and set the direction to proceed with The Laminitis Research Project and the development of the first of many
"This project is in response to AAEP members prioritizing laminitis as the most important disease requiring research," said
AAEP Foundation Chairman Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, PhD, FRCVS, DSc, Dipl. ACVS. "We are fortunate and very grateful our long-time
industry partner Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica, Inc., and their new exciting product Prascend is willing to support research
to help us help horses with this devastating disease.
The Laminitis Research Project Advisory Board
"At one time, the foundation funded smaller research projects, but we thought it was time, based on our member surveys, that
the foundation supported complete, focused research projects, and the first topic is laminitis," continues McIlwraith. "We
decided that a lot of the work on laminitis has been experimental, but to prevent it, we need to know specific risk factors."
Susan Eades, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, a member of the Laminitis Research Project Advisory Board, says, "From previous conferences,
laminitis researchers identified the most important things that we need to know in order to proceed toward work on a preventative
or a cure for laminitis. This research included discussions from basic science to clinical cases, but the most glaring thing
is that we don't have enough information about the day-to-day cases of laminitis, as it relates to endocrine and metabolic
In 2010, the AAEP Foundation gathered a group of experts for two workshops. Long-time Foundation Advisory Committee member
Rustin Moore, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, was the facilitator for both workshops. Former Foundation Advisory Committee Chair and
2010 AAEP President Nathaniel White II, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, represented the AAEP as an officer, as did McIlwraith.
"We planned this research to focus on the pasture-metabolic laminitis problem, which we hope will show us some of the factors
involved with this type of laminitis, to lead us to ideas on how to prevent it," says McIlwraith.
Discussion then progressed into using an epidemiologic approach to investigate risk factors for the disease. The advisory
group consisted of a variety of individuals in different research fields, including internists, surgeons and other interested
practitioners. Because of his expertise in epidemiology, Cohen agreed to be the principal investigator of the study.
"At that time in 2010, the goal and the plan were discussed," says Coleman. "From there, I was hired to coordinate the project,
to take over and sort through several of the details. This initial study will help us prioritize future laminitis research.
The plan is to collect data for approximately one year, through the end of 2012."