Innovation in the Treatment of Equine Lameness

During my time as an equine veterinarian I was constantly dealing with lame horses. In fact, lameness accounts for one of the most common reasons for veterinary call outs and costs thousands in poor performance, lost training days, and emotional anguish from frustrated owners, not to mention the welfare implications for the horses. 

Approximately 60% of all equine lameness is due to arthritis, or inflammation of the joints and because of this there is a high level of motivation and investment in research to find innovative treatments. Finally veterinarians may have something new to use. 

Traditionally treatments have been mostly aimed at reducing the symptoms of arthritis with anti-inflammatories, corticosteroids, and so called visco-supplements like hyaluronic acid and polysulphated glycosaminoglycans (PSGAG's). Over the last 30 years research was also heavily invested in stem cell and regenerative medicines but they just haven't had the results we all wanted, for various reasons. 

But now veterinarians have found a treatment that looks to be very promising. It is a synthetic polymer that once injected into the joint acts as a tissue scaffold that allows the bodies own cells to grow through it and fully integrate into the joint. This improves the physical strength and elasticity of the joint, but potentially even more excitingly actually results on the regeneration of a new and hypercellular joint lining. Effectively restoring the joint and modifying the disease process. 

Clinical effects so far across multiple scientific studies, and most recently led by a team of equine veterinarians in Australia and New Zealand, have shown up to 82.5% of horses respond and with long lasting effects. Vets are describing this as a "game-changer" in the battle against arthritis and for managing joint lameness in equine athletes. The product has in fact proven so effective that it has now been licensed for use in humans. 

Dr Jason Lowe BVSc, Equine Veterinarian.