AFA Funds Equine Stem Cell Research Grant

The American Farrier’s Association (AFA) has donated $10,000 through its equine research fund to the Morris Animal Foundation in support of equine stem cell research being conducted by Alix Berglund, DVM, a Morris Animal Foundation fellow and graduate research assistant at North Carolina State University.

In conjunction with the work of Lauren Schnabel, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, ACVSMR, and Matthew Fisher, PhD, Berglund’s research is focused on “developing new culture techniques that will help stem cells avoid detection by the immune system, thereby allowing for safe and efficacious therapy in horses using donor stem cells.”

Currently, stem cell treatments are limited by the quality of a patient’s cells and the time it takes to culture them, and donor cells are rejected by a horse’s immune system if perceived as foreign. A culture technique that would enable donor stem cells to avoid detection as foreign by the recipient’s immune system would, in turn, greatly enhance the opportunities for conveniently and effectively utilizing stem cell therapy over what is currently possible.

“Stem cell therapies have the potential to improve the outcome of severe and potentially life-ending musculoskeletal diseases in horses, including those of the distal limb and foot,” Berglund said. “In particular, stem cells have shown promise for the treatment of deep digital flexor tendon lesions associated with navicular syndrome and for the treatment of laminitis.”

Ideally, however, stem cell therapy should be administered as soon as possible following the time of injury or identification of the initial signs of disease, but since donor cells can be killed by the recipient horse’s immune system if perceived as foreign, the use of this promising treatment is currently limited.

The AFA’s Equine Research Chairman Doug Russo, CJF, the resident farrier at Iowa State University’s School of Veterinary Medicine, directed the review process for selection of this research.

“The Foundation is deeply appreciative of the American Farrier’s Association’s investment in regenerative therapy research which holds great promise for improving the lives of horses,” said Roxanne Davis, director of organizational giving for Morris Animal Foundation. “Together, we are advancing equine health by supporting the development of new treatments for devastating diseases and injuries.”

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