Mandi Lopez, associate professor and director of the LSU Laboratory for Equine and Comparative Orthopedic Research, or LECOR, is the recipient of a competitive grant award from the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation to study equine adult stem cells for repair of injured bone. Dr. Jeffrey Gimble of the Pennington Biomedical Research Center is a collaborator on the grant, which will provide funding for a large scale investigation within LECOR.
Broken bones are a common problem in horses, especially race horses. According to the Equine Injury Database, based upon a year’s worth of data beginning November 1, 2008, 2.04 fatal injuries were recorded per 1,000 starts in Thoroughbred flat races. In the U.S., over 80% of horses killed in racing or training sustain a broken bone. In spite of decades of research, treatment of broken bones in the horse is still fraught with difficulty. This is often due to unique characteristics and complications of the equine patient, tragically highlighted by the 2006 Kentucky Derby champion, Barbaro. Methods to promote and increase the rate of bone healing will significantly contribute to successful treatment of broken bones in horses.
Adult equine stem cells offer a promising solution to the challenges of fracture treatment in horses. Approximately 70 million adult stem cells are required 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.
“In studies within our laboratory, adult equine adipose-derived (ASCs) and bone marrow-derived (BMSCs) stem cells had the ability to form bone in cell experiments,” said Lopez. “In order to be placed at the site of the bone injury, stem cells are loaded onto absorbable carriers. To date, there has been little research on the bone forming ability of equine ASCs and BMSCs on different carriers. We plan to determine the best combinations of equine adult stem cells and carriers that increase the rate and quality of bone healing in the horse. Results from this study will significantly advance treatment of broken bones in the horse.”
The prestigious Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation is dedicated to improving the health and soundness of horses and funds approximately $1 million yearly divided among 18-20 research groups worldwide. With Louisiana playing host to a $2.45 billion horse industry, Lopez and the LSU School of Veterinary Medicine’s Equine Health Studies Program play an integral role in LSU’s flagship agenda by addressing the vital needs of this value-added component of the state and national economies.
The grant of $157,830 runs from April 1, 2010, through March 31, 2012.