UK Graduate Student Spotlight: Rebekah Cosden

Rebekah Cosden

Rebekah Cosden

Name: Rebekah Cosden
From: Westminster, Md.
BS - Animal Science: Equine Studies, University of Maryland
MS - Animal Science, Virginia Tech
PhD - Veterinary Science, University of Kentucky

A Maryland native and lifelong horse enthusiast, Rebekah Cosden's research focus at the Gluck Equine Research Center has been on equine musculoskeletal science. She completed her research in the laboratory of James MacLeod, VMD, PhD, John S. and Elizabeth A. Knight chair and professor of veterinary science at the Gluck Equine Research Center. Cosden said she met MacLeod when she was seeking help while working with equine cartilage samples collected at Virginia Tech.

"I visited the Gluck Center several times in 2006 and 2007 to learn some research techniques, and I was very impressed with Dr. MacLeod's laboratory," Cosden said. "Fortunately, I was able to begin a PhD program in the lab after completion of my MS degree at Virginia Tech."

Joint diseases such as osteoarthritis and osteochondrosis are major problems in the horse. Cosden's dissertation research focused on a different approach to investigate articular (joint) cartilage, which has a limited natural repair capacity.

"Despite clinical advances which have occurred over the past few decades, we still don't really have a way to completely repair articular cartilage," she said. "With this in mind, we took a bit of a unique approach and searched for other vertebrates which are able to intrinsically repair articular cartilage."

She investigated articular cartilage repair in the axolotl salamander, a well-established model for limb regeneration. Studying the salamander led Cosden to investigate similarities between developing mammalian and mature axolotl diarthrodial joints (freely moveable joints held together by a capsule, such as the knee).

"This work has established the axolotl as a new model for articular cartilage development and repair and hopefully will eventually lead us to a better understanding of how nature prefers to heal articular cartilage in all animals," Cosden said.

Cosden successfully completed her PhD defense examination in the Department of Veterinary Science at the University of Kentucky on April 7 and is anticipated to graduate in May. She plans to continue studying joint development through a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania in the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia starting this summer.

"Although I'll be switching to a different model system, I am very excited about being able to continue working on understanding mechanisms of synovial joint development," she said. "I am confident that the knowledge gained will eventually contribute to improved therapeutic options for articular cartilage injuries and developmental cartilage defects in all mammals, including horses and humans."

Jenny Blandford is the Gluck Equine Research Foundation assistant at the Gluck Center.

Want more articles like this? Sign up for the Bluegrass Equine Digest e-Newsletter.

More information on Gluck Equine Research Center and UK's Equine Initiative.

Stay on top of the most recent Horse Health news with FREE weekly newsletters from Learn More