Name: Daniel Andrew Hestad
Degrees and institute where received: BS in Animal Science, Berry College, Ga., 2007

Daniel Andrew Hestad chose to come to the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center because it is world renowned equine research. With his interests in equine reproduction and his depth of experience in the equine industry, completing a graduate program at Gluck just seemed the perfect match, he said.

"On top of that, I knew after my first meeting with Dr. (Karen) McDowell (MS, PhD) that our interests and work ethics were perfectly aligned, such that she made my experience at the Gluck Center one of the best experiences of my life," he said.

Hestad's main research focus was to explore how endophyte-infected tall fescue seed ingestion (which causes fescue toxicosis in pregnant mares) would affect nonpregnant mares.

"Rather than side projects, we split this goal into three tandem experiments which all built on the previous knowledge that (ingested) fescue toxicosis would cause vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels resulting from contraction of the muscular wall of the vessels)," he said.

"Our study demonstrated that when mares ingest at least 10 mg of ergot alkaloid (the toxic chemical found in affected fescue) per day, certain parameters regarding the estrous cycle are not influenced, while vasoconstriction is observed," said Hestad. "This vasoconstriction may be related to the presence of the biogenic amine receptors (a variety of neurotransmitter receptors) which were defined in subsequent experiments."

According to Hestad, the combined results from these experiments imply that relative quantity of serotonergic receptor subtypes within a blood vessel might be related to with the severity of that vessel's vasoconstrictive response to endophyte-infected tall fescue.

This project was able to clear up a lot of ambiguity in the field brought about by sparse reports with conflicting results, he said.

Hestad's next move is to enter veterinary school, where he ultimately hopes to return to research in the equine reproduction field.

Shaila Sigsgaard is a contributing writer for the Bluegrass Equine Digest.

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