The focus of this research area is understanding obesity and the metabolic syndrome in the horse and how it leads to laminitis. Studies in this area range from the “bench-side” molecular and biochemical characterization of equine fat cells and blood flow to the “stall-side” treatment of laminitis through diet control, exercise and appropriate hoof care. Studies of the structure of the hoof and its response to different loads may lead to better understanding of why it responds to obesity by development of laminitis and better management after it occurs.
Debra Ruffin Taylor, DVM, MS, DACVIM: The focus of AULAC podiatry research is to investigate the natural adaptations of bone and soft tissue (tendon and cartilage) due to load and imposed demands in the equine hoof. We hypothesize that the collateral cartilages and digital cushion of horses remodel in response to certain types of exercise. If this is true, exercise protocols may be designed to improve overall hoof health. We have established a method to evaluate the volume of the collateral cartilages and digital cushion and the fibrocartilage percentage of the digital cushion with advanced imaging and computer analysis software. We collaborate extensively with the private sector hoof care industry and hope to make big advances in this area with the presence of a new state of the art MRI facility on campus.
Anne Wooldridge, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVIM: My research focus for several years has involved the pathophysiology behind diseases affecting smooth muscles such as esophagaeal obstruction (choke), and high blood pressure. My studies examine the metabolic syndrome in the clinical situation and then look at the molecular and physiological basis for those changes. My ultimate goal is to understand how the metabolic syndrome and obesity in the horse lead to laminitis. Working with Dr. Stewart, we have examined the effects of season on diagnostic tests for metabolic syndrome in horses. I am also studying a hormone from fat called adiponectin that may improve sensitivity to insulin and improve blood flow. In collaboration with Dr. Waguespack, I am also studying the effects of insulin on function of blood vessels from the equine lamina.