20 Years of Laminitis Research Funding

In November, the Missouri-based Animal Health Foundation (AHF) will celebrate 20 years of fundraising efforts to help support laminitis research. Established in 1984 by Donald Walsh, DVM, and his wife, Diana, AHF raises funds that go directly to research programs. AHF has no employees, no office, and very few administrative costs, but it does have hundreds of dedicated volunteers who build jumps at benefit horse shows, lick envelopes, and follow laminitis research the way some people follow baseball standings. Many volunteers are owners of laminitic horses, or have owned horses which did not survive laminitis.

AHF volunteers have raised almost a half-million dollars for research around the world over the past 20 years. Recipients of AHF funding have included Chris Pollitt, BVSc, PhD, of the University of Queensland; Phil Johnson, BVSC, MRCVS, MS, Dipl. ACVIM, of the University of Missouri; Steve Adair, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, of the University of Tennessee; Tom Goetz, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of the University of Illinois; Harold Garner, DVM, PhD, of the University of Missouri; John Bertram, PhD, while he was at Cornell University; and Eleanor Green, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, Dipl. ABVP, while she was at the University of Missouri.

Nine grants over seven years from the AHF have helped Australian researcher Pollitt delve into his theory of the trigger mechanism of laminitis, in which enzymes called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) cause the laminar cells inside the hoof to tear loose--like Velcro ripping apart--from the delicate basement membrane binding the laminae.

AHF also supports Pollitt’s research into hindgut laminitis trigger factors, and it purchased a high-power microscope used to identify and monitor the basement membrane disintegration process during acute laminitis.

Recently, a grant to plant scientist Kathryn Watt, BS, in Colorado precisely documented carbohydrate reduction in hay by soaking it before feeding. This information will be helpful to owners of horses with chronic laminitis related to insulin resistance.

On Nov. 15, Chris Pollitt will arrive in Palm Beach, Fla. to speak at the Second International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot (http://www.slackinc.com/laminitis/agenda.htm). Then he will travel to St. Louis, Mo., where he will present his latest research findings at the AHF’s annual meeting and 20th anniversary gala, hosted by Purina Mills. Information about the AHF can be accessed at www.animalhealthfoundation.com.

About the Author

Fran Jurga

Fran Jurga is the publisher of Hoofcare & Lameness, The Journal of Equine Foot Science, based in Gloucester, Mass., and Hoofcare Online, an electronic newsletter accessible at www.hoofcare.com. Her work also includes promoting lameness-related research and information for practical use by farriers, veterinarians, and horse owners. Jurga authored Understanding The Equine Foot, published by Eclipse Press and available at www.exclusivelyequine.com or by calling 800/582-5604.

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