Stems cell research may help heal horses' broken bones

LSU researcher receives grant to study equine adult stem cells.
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Apr 02, 2010
By dvm360.com staff
Baton Rouge -- Every year the Grayson Jockey Club Research Foundation, a group dedicated to improving the health and soundness of horses, awards approximately $1 million in grants among 18 to 20 research groups worldwide.

This year, Louisiana State University (LSU) researcher, Dr. Mandi Lopez, will receive part of those funds.

Dr. Lopez, an associate professor and director of the LSU Laboratory for Equine and Comparative Orthopedic Research (LECOR), received the competitive grant to aid in her study of equine adult stem cells for repair of injured bone. Broken bones are a common, and fatal, problem in horses, especially race horses. According to a LSU press release, in the U.S. more than 80 percent of horses killed in racing or training sustain a broken bone. And according to the Equine Injury Database, based on a year's worth of data beginning November 1, 2008, 2.04 fatal injuries were recorded per 1,00 starts in Thoroughbred flat races.

Fortunately, adult equine stem cells offer a promising solution to the challenges of fracture treatment in horses. According to LSU, approximately 70 million adult stem cells are needed to repair a single cubic centimeter of bone. Based on current research, only two adult tissues in mammals have the potential to provide this number of stem cells: adipose (fat) and bone. LECOR has conducted experiments with both stem cell types and has found that both had the ability to form bone.

However, in order to be placed at the site of the bone injury, stem cells must be loaded onto absorbable carriers. Currently, there is little known about the bone forming ability of fat and bone stem cells on different carriers. Dr. Lopez says she plans to determine the best combinations of equine adult stem cells and carriers that increase the rate and quality of bone healing in horses. Dr. Lopez’ grant, in the amount of $157,830, runs from April 1, 2010 to March 31, 2012.