The equine reproductive health group at the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center has developed a number of strategic goals to help enhance reproductive performance in horses.

Conveniently centered in the largest Thoroughbred nursery in the world, Gluck Center researchers have formed productive and important partnerships with Bluegrass horse farms and equine veterinarians. The Gluck Center also addresses the reproductive technologies used by all other breeds in Kentucky.

The reproductive health group consists of four faculty members: Barry Ball, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, the Albert G. Clay Endowed Chair in Equine Reproduction; Karen McDowell, PhD, associate professor; Ed Squires, PhD, Dipl. ACT (hon.), director of the UK Equine Initiative, executive director of the UK Gluck Equine Research Foundation and the director of advancement and industry relations at the Gluck Center; and Mats Troedsson, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, director of the Gluck Center and chair of the department of veterinary science at UK.

Major research program goals include:

1. Increasing pregnancy rates

  • Develop diagnostic tests to improve stallions' semen fertility
  • Increase the fertility of frozen-thawed stallion sperm
  • Devise treatments to enhance the mare's uterine defense after insemination

2. Minimize early embryo losses (fertilization to Day 14 of pregnancy):

  • Evaluate changes in genes expressed by the early embryo and uterus as a means to identify critical signals from the early embryo responsible for successful maternal recognition and establishment of pregnancy
  • Evaluate the effects of progesterone (pregnancy hormone) on the uterine environment and early embryo survival

3. Diagnosis and therapy of later pregnancy losses (seven to nine months of gestation):

  • Improve diagnostic techniques for later pregnancy losses including endocrine testing, ultrasound evaluation, fetal fluid sampling, and inflammation markers that might be detected in the mare's blood
  • Improve therapeutic techniques that more specifically direct antibiotic therapy to the uterus and placenta
  • Develop treatments to reduce uterine contractions that ultimately lead to abortion
  • Improved assessment of the outcomes of mares treated for uterine contractions, including health of the neonate and the older foal from treated mares.

These goals will be realized by utilizing a combination of bench laboratory research, animal-based research, and field studies. Research studies will target multiple aspects of equine reproductive health with the goal of increasing equine reproductive efficiency.

Barry Ball, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACT, the Albert G. Clay Endowed Chair in Equine Reproduction at UK's Gluck Equine Research Center, submitted this information.

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