Saturday, April 25, 2020

Investigating osteoarthritis gene therapy

New research at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) will investigate the potential of gene therapy for treating osteoarthritis.

The work is led by Dr Scott Roberts, whose research interest is focused on the mechanisms that control skeletal homeostasis, with an emphasis on manipulating the signalling pathways to enhance the ability of stem cells to coordinate skeletal tissue repair. 

Dr Roberts joins the Department of Comparative Biomedical Sciences at the RVC having worked at the Katholieke Universiteit (KU) in Leuven (Belgium). He has also researched this topic as Principal Investigator at University College London and as Senior Principal Scientist at UCB Pharma.

Cartilage plays a vital role in the joint, providing a smooth lubricated surface, reducing friction, and absorbing shock during movement. However, its ability to repair itself is extremely limited. Damage to the cartilage often progresses to osteoarthritis. There is also currently no approved evidence-driven therapy for the treatment of this disease. 

The new gene therapy research programme in osteoarthritis will be undertaken in partnership with the Vaccinology and Cell Therapy Hub at the RVC. The Hub – with its close connections to both scientists and veterinary clinicians – is also well-placed to take the science from bench-to-bedside and facilitate clinical trials in veterinary patients. This will include horses at the Equine Referral Hospital, and dogs and cats at the Queen Mother Hospital for Animals at the RVC.

Dr Roberts said: “This research has the potential to change the way that we approach degenerative joint disease and I am delighted to have access to the Vaccinology and Cell Therapy Hub while we undertake this work. We hope that this science will lead to a ground-breaking treatment for osteoarthritis in animals, and eventually humans.”

In addition to osteoarthritis, Dr Roberts’ research aims to create regenerative therapeutics for non-healing bone fractures. This is based on a comprehensive understanding of tissue development, as tissue repair is now regarded as a re-emergence of embryonic signalling cascades. Dr Roberts has used knowledge in this area to identify developmentally inspired methodologies to create laboratory grown tissue implants that have the capacity to drive bone fracture repair.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Relationship between Resting and Recovery Heart Rate in Horses

It would be better to base heart rate recovery tests in endurance competitions on each individual horse’s resting heart rate, according to the authors of a recent study.

Veterinary check points (vet gates) are set up at various points along the route of an endurance race, to ensure that each horse is fit to continue the competition. 

Horses are held at the vet gate and checked for heart rate recovery, metabolic status, gait and general condition. The heart rate must have fallen below a specified value before the horse can continue. The required heart rate is the same for all competitors.

It has been assumed that horses with low resting heart rates would reach the required limit for continuing more quickly. Now research by Arno Lindner and colleagues has shown that is, indeed, the case. 

The study was performed at the Veterinary Science Faculty’s Centre for Physiology and Pathophysiology of Sport Horses at the National University of La Plata, Buenos Aires, Argentina. A full report of the work has been published in the journal Animals.

Seven horses were involved in the study, in which they were exercised at different speeds for up to 60 minutes on a treadmill.

The researchers examined the relationship between resting heart rate (HRresting) and HR after exercise (HRrecovery), measuring heart rate before exercise and on several occasions during the 30 minutes after the end of exercise. 

They found a positive relationship between HRresting and HRrecovery, supporting the view that the time taken to reach the pre-defined HR is shorter when the resting HR of a horse is lower.

The study also found that a lower resting HR was not associated with higher endurance capacity. The research team looked at the relationship between HR and V4. (V4, the velocity at which the blood lactate concentration is 4 mmol/L, is widely used to assess athletic performance.)

With only a few exceptions, there were no significant relationships between the V4 of the horses and their HRresting or between V4 and HRrecovery.

The authors suggest that, based on their findings, it would be much better to determine the individual HRrecovery during the initial veterinary examination of a horse to decide if it was fit to compete, and apply this value at the vet gates during the competition.

For more details, see:

Relationship between Resting and Recovery Heart Rate in Horses
Arno Lindner, Martina Esser, Ramón López and Federico Boffi
Animals (2020) 10(1), 120;

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Equine behaviour research

Those who care for horses are encouraged to take part in a worldwide study of equine behaviour.

“The increase in popularity of having a horse as a recreational companion has stimulated a diversity of opinions as to what constitutes normal and abnormal equine behaviour, and what defines effective and humane training” says Paul McGreevy, Professor of Animal Welfare and Behaviour at the University of Sydney, in a letter to the Veterinary Record.

To explore the influence of training and management on horse behaviour, Professor McGreevy and his research team have launched the Equine Behaviour Assessment and Research Questionnaire (E-BARQ), a global database of horse behaviour. 

He explains that the non-profit project allows the equine community throughout the world to donate their observational data and gain unique benefits in return.

The research aims to reveal information on how training and management affects behaviour and how, in turn, behaviour affects horse welfare.

Horse owners will be able to compare their horse’s behaviour with that of other horses around the world. E-BARQs “share and compare” graphs will reveal attributes such as trainability, rideability, handling, compliance, boldness, and human social confidence.

E-BARQ is open to all horse owners/handlers, regardless of their horses’ breed, height, or age, and provides users with a free dashboard to store their horses’ results and track their progress.

Participants will gain an insight into where their horses are performing well and where they may need help. They will also be able to monitor their horse’s progress over time by returning to their E-BARQ dashboard every six months and re-taking the questionnaire, updating their scores.

You can access E-BARQ here: