Exercise, Nutritional Supplement's Effects on Inflammation

Exercise, Nutritional Supplement's Effects on Inflammation

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Researchers are a step closer to helping owners and trainers identify whether a horse is at risk for soft tissue injury. A simple blood test could reveal inflammatory mediators indicating the animal has sustained tissue damage and could be vulnerable to further harm.

David Horohov, PhD, William Robert Mills Chair at the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center, described the usefulness of detecting pro-inflammatory cytokine mRNA at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif.

"The expression of pro-inflammatory cytokine mRNA post-exercise is an indicator of the body’s response to tissue damage that has occurred during the exercise," Horohov explained. "While we normally associate inflammation with a disease state, the fact is that some inflammation is necessary to begin the healing process.

"However, if pro-inflammatory cytokine mRNA expression continues to rise throughout the training period, the amount of damage that is occurring may be exceeding the capacity of the body to heal, and this could result in an injury," he continued. "By contrast, if the pro-inflammatory gene expression goes down over time the horse is adapting to the exercise, and this likely means the horse is at less risk for injury."

Horohov and his colleagues employed 25 2-year-old Thoroughbreds arriving at a training center two months before beginning training; shortly after their arrival, he took baseline blood samples to be used as comparisons later in the study period. Two weeks prior to training commencement, he started 13 of the 25 horses on a nutritional supplement containing antioxidants and anti-inflammatory components. He hoped to determine if administering the product made any impact on pro-inflammatory cytokine expression.

Throughout training, Horohov and colleagues collected blood samples one hour before exercise; within five minutes of exercise completion; and two hours post-exercise.

He isolated total RNA from the samples and evaluated pro-inflammatory cytokine gene expression.

The team found that pro-inflammatory cytokine expression increased two hours after the horses exercised, and that throughout the training period pro-inflammatory cytokine expression decreased statistically significantly for horses consuming the nutritional supplement.

"Signs of adaptation to exercise over the training period were indicated by an overall reduction in the expression or pro-inflammatory cytokines," Horohov relayed. He noted also that the nutritional supplement was associated with "enhanced adaptation" to exercise.

"It is possible that we could use this method to assess a horse’s adaptation to training and to monitor it for signs of impending problems," he noted. "Since the nutritional supplement was able to enhance this adaptation process, it suggests that some horses could benefit from its use."

Horohov said that he conducting a larger project that will include 100 young racehorses in training.

"Here we will expand the number of genes we are monitoring to see if changes in a specific gene’s expression can be associated with an increased risk for injury," he said.

Erica Larson is the news editor for TheHorse.com.

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About the Author

Erica Larson, News Editor

Erica Larson, news editor, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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