Tendon research earns vet PhD at special NZ ceremony

Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences PhD graduates Dr Danielle Aberdein, Dr Kerri Morgan, Dr Sarah Taylor and Dr Eric Neumann.
Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences PhD graduates Dr Danielle Aberdein, Dr Kerri Morgan, Dr Sarah Taylor and Dr Eric Neumann.

Equine tendon researcher Dr Sarah Taylor is among four veterinarians to receive a PhD during a special graduation ceremony last week to mark 50 years of veterinary education at Massey University.

PhDs were also presented to Dr Kerri Morgan, Dr Danielle Aberdein, and Dr Eric Neumann.

The ceremony at the Regent on Broadway saw 96 Bachelor of Veterinary Science degrees awarded, along with 29 Bachelor of Veterinary Technology degrees. One Postgraduate Diploma in Veterinary Public Health, two Masters of Veterinary Science and one Master of Veterinary Studies were also awarded.

Dr Taylor’s doctoral thesis looked at tendon injury, which is a major welfare and financial problem in horses. She developed and tested models of acute tendon injury in sheep and horses. These models enabled the study of structural and functional changes in tendons and used a number of methods, including ultrasound imaging and molecular methods to target gap junctions that link cells and are involved in the spread of cell death following injury.

The ability to modulate these gap junctions would therefore provide a potential intervention strategy to assist tendon healing. Taylor’s results show that sheep and horse systems respond differently to intervention strategies and thus provide very useful experimental systems to further study tendon healing mechanisms, which could lead to a therapeutic treatment regimen for both horses and potentially people.

Dr Morgan, a wildlife veterinarian at Massey’s Wildbase hospital, has discovered new information about the parasite coccidiosis, which affects kiwi in captivity. The parasite infects the gastrointestinal and renal system and can result in death. She identified coccidiosis in four of the five species of kiwi, including brown, rowi, great spotted and Haast tokoeka, and examined risk factors to determine which kiwi are most prone to the disease. Her research shows the disease behaves very differently in kiwi than chickens, and this information will be used to provide advice to conservation workers managing this disease in captive reared kiwi.

Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences lecturer Dr Aberdein’s research characterises a novel inherited disease in British shorthair kittens that causes abnormal proliferation of lymphocytes – a type of white blood cell. This disease has several similarities to the human disease autoimmune lymphoproliferative syndrome. It is hoped that future studies will help confirm whether the feline disease has the potential to be used as an animal model for the human disease. Her findings support the hypothesis that defects in programmed T-lymphocyte death are a factor in the development of the disease in kittens.

Dr Neumann is a senior lecturer in pig health and epidemiology at the institute. He undertook epidemiological studies of New Zealand’s non-commercial pig holdings to quantify the likelihood of an exotic disease incursion. Based on these studies, disease surveillance methods were investigated then presented to industry stakeholders for suitability in terms of cost and feasibility. Dr Neumann’s work demonstrates that the New Zealand pig industry is susceptible to the introduction of an exotic disease and that the non-commercial pig population must be considered when developing disease readiness plans for the industry.

Also at the ceremony, Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences head Professor Frazer Allan presented two honorary Bachelor of Veterinary Science degrees to Gary Clark and Bob Gumbrell.

Chancellor Chris Kelly was presented with the Massey University Veterinary 50-year Anniversary medal.



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