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Barbaro's legacy lives on in laminitis project

November 30, 2007

Two projects focusing on laminitis will be launched soon with funds raised by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) in memory of Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro. The projects, costing slightly more than $100,000 in total, will be conducted by researchers at Louisiana State University and the University of Georgia.

Following the death of Barbaro after he contracted laminitis, the NTRA Charities - Barbaro Memorial Fund was created in his honour. On Belmont Stakes Day at Belmont Park in June, NTRA President and Chief Executive Officer Alex Waldrop presented a check for $100,000 to Dell Hancock, chairman of the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. The foundation, traditionally the leading source of private funding for equine research, was entrusted by the NTRA to manage the funds raised primarily from racing fans, racing participants, and racetracks.

The Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation issued a special call for laminitis research and convened a panel of experts to evaluate the nine projects presented by researchers from throughout North America.

The projects chosen were designed by Professor Susan Eades of Louisiana State University's School of Veterinary Medicine and Professor Douglas Allen of the University of Georgia. Dr. Eades' project will continue veterinary science's efforts to understand the specific route of development of laminitis while testing the hypothesis that the medication doxycycline can prevent the onset of the disease and serve as a therapeutic agent for horses that contract it.

Dr. Eades will work on this project with Dr. Lee Ann Fugler, a PhD candidate in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences. "We are evaluating doxycycline to see if it inhibits production of matrix metalloproteinases in horses as it does in people with diabetes, etc.," said Dr. Eddlestone. "Matrix metalloproteinases are possibly the enzymes that break down the connective tissue that attaches the coffin bone to the hoof during laminitis. We will then see if it prevents development of laminitis. We are doing some preliminary evaluations of doxycycline now and will begin testing it as a preventative for laminitis after the first of the year."

Dr. Allen's work will follow up on recent research indicating that serotonin might be a key chemical responsible for development of laminitis and examine whether a medication that breaks down serotonin might prevent the clinical signs of laminitis following carbohydrate overload.

Both projects are scheduled to be completed within two years.

"The fund-raising effort of the NTRA already is having a positive impact on researchers' attempts to solve a major malady that is a constant peril to all equines," said Edward L. Bowen, president of Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. "If sufficient additional fund raising in Barbaro's memory is achieved, additional laminitis proposals already designed can be funded. Also, the remaining laminitis proposals we received will be considered for funding through the foundation's regular competitive grants program."

"The case of Barbaro was a dramatic illustration of just how frustrating and tragic a disease laminitis can be," said Waldrop. "The extraordinary effort to save him touched millions of people. The NTRA Charities - Barbaro Memorial Fund is a way for all of us to contribute to equine health and safety in a way that will ensure that Barbaro's legacy lives on forever."

Laminitis involves a breakdown and degeneration of the horn-like and sensitive laminae connected to the hoof's inner wall. Various stimuli can initiate the process. Laminitis is extremely painful, which often leads to the decision that euthanasia is the only humane course. More about laminitis

Laminitis research has long been a priority for the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and other fund-raising agencies and university research teams.



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