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Our Research

Science has the power to change the world

As the global leader in supporting scientific research that advances veterinary medicine, Morris Animal Foundation has invested more than $100 million toward more than 2,400 studies to improve the health and well-being of dogs, cats, horses, llamas/alpacas and wildlife.

At any given time, Morris Animal Foundation is managing more than 200 active studies. Each year, we also fund about 30 veterinary student scholar projects. Search our health study database by species or area of study to learn more about research that will make a true difference in the lives of animals—today and tomorrow.

To sponsor a study, please contact a member of our sponsorship team for the most up-to-date status on our research projects at sponsorship@MorrisAnimalFoundation.org or call 800.243.2345. 

Search Results

Identifying the Genetic Basis of Type 2 Polysaccharide Storage Myopathy

Researchers previously determined that a genetic mutation causes type 1 polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM1) in horses, a discovery that led to a genetic diagnostic test. They also identified a second type of PSSM (PSSM2) that is not linked to the same genetic mutation. This study has two components: first, it investigates the genetic basis of PSSM2 in an effort to improve diagnostic testing, and second, it looks at the link between the PSSM1 mutation and tying-up, which the researchers hope will lead to improved therapeutic management options.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Raffaella Teixeira, University of Minnesota

Sponsors:

Study ID: D13EQ-402

Identifying Ways to Control Stem Cell Behavior to Improve Regenerative Therapies in Horses

Stem cells have the potential to treat a wide variety of inflammatory and degenerative diseases in animals; however, little is known about how the recipient’s body possibly affects the expression and function of transplanted stem cells. To fill this knowledge gap, researchers will investigate how macrophages, which are white blood cells naturally found in injured tissue sites targeted for therapy, influence the function of transplanted stem cells. This new information may help researchers identify ways to control stem cell behavior after transplantation and improve regenerative stem cell therapies in horses and other animals.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jennifer Cassano, Cornell University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D15EQ-403

Improving cell therapies to repair articular cartilage damage in horses

Summary: Researchers will evaluate the ability of a unique population of cells called interzone cells to produce new cartilage in horses with joint damage.

Description: Articular cartilage covers the ends of bones in synovial joints and provides a smooth surface to facilitate pain-free movement of contacting bone surfaces, as well as biomechanical support. Once structural damage occurs to articular cartilage, it is difficult to reverse. Lesions do not completely heal, explaining the progressive nature of osteoarthritis over the lifetime of an individual. Researchers will investigate a population of cells, known as interzone cells, involved in articular cartilage formation during early joint development, and compare their effectiveness to conventional stem cells generated from bone marrow and fat tissue. Finding new ways to enhance articular cartilage repair will relieve pain and help prevent further damage from occurring in horses with arthritis and other forms of degenerative joint disease.  

Principal Investigator: Dr. James N. MacLeod, University of Kentucky

Sponsors: United States Eventing Association 

Study ID: D16EQ-016

Improving Immunotherapy for Allergy Treatment in Horses

Horses are often affected by allergic diseases, for which allergen-specific immunotherapy (ASIT) is the only causative treatment. However, in its present form ASIT often leads to only partial improvement of clinical signs and it requires several injections over many years. In addition, severe side effects can occur. Researchers will evaluate how to enhance the immune cells’ recognition and uptake of recombinant allergens and thereby improve the treatment of allergies in horses. The information will also help improve allergy treatment in other species, such as dogs and cats, and the techniques used may also be useful in improving the efficacy of vaccines against infectious diseases. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Eliane Marti, University of Berne, Pilot Study

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14EQ-811

Improving Regenerative Therapies

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) can differentiate into many different types of cells, such as skeletal and nerve tissue. The majority of regenerative therapies involving MSC rely on fetal bovine serum (FBS) to help grow and develop these cells. However, FBS can stimulate an unwanted immune response which may affect MSCs’ survival and function when administered to a patient. Researchers will evaluate an alternate medium derived from clot-producing platelets and its ability to support the growth of MSCs for regenerative therapies. The team hopes this new method will generate stem cells more immunologically neutral to the patient, resulting in a better response to stem cell therapies.

Principal Investigator: John F. Peroni, DVM, The University of Georgia

Sponsors:

Study ID: D17EQ-021

Improving regenerative therapies for horses

Summary: Researchers will explore new techniques to generate stem cells that are more immunologically compatible and less likely to be rejected by the horse’s immune system.

Description: Stem cell therapies have the potential to improve the outcome of potentially severe and life-ending musculoskeletal injuries in horses. However, not all donor cells are accepted by the recipient’s immune system. The recipient’s immune cells will destroy transplanted stem cells if the immune system perceives the introduced cells as foreign. To improve stem cell treatment success, researchers will examine whether new culture techniques can be used to prevent the immune system from destroying donor stem cells. Successful production of immunologically compatible, “off-the-shelf” stem cells has the potential to improve the convenience, availability, and effectiveness of stem cell therapies, not only in horses, but in many species, including other companion animals.

Principal Investigator: Alix K. Berglund, North Carolina State University

Sponsors: United States Eventing Association 

Study ID: D16EQ-405

Improving the Use of Stem-Cell Therapy in Horses with Cartilage Defects

Cartilage damage is a problem for all horses, and athletic horses are especially prone to cartilage injury and disease at an early age. Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC)-based therapies hold great promise for healing articular cartilage defects, but currently available MSCs are unable to stimulate long-term cartilage healing. The investigators will optimize a technique for inducing MSCs to rapidly turn into cartilage cells in the laboratory, in a manner in which the cells can then be stored and/or administered to horses using minimally invasive techniques. They will also evaluate whether cartilage differentiation can be achieved without inducing immune sensitivity, which would be favorable for donor applications. If successful in the study cases, this approach could be a potential treatment for all horses with focal cartilage defects.

Principal Investigator: Dr. John D. Kisiday, Colorado State University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14EQ-015

Investigating a New Treatment Strategy for Equine Asthma

Equine asthma (also previously known as heaves, recurrent airway obstruction and COPD) is a significant problem with limited treatment options. This chronic allergic respiratory condition is diagnosed in all breeds and reportedly affects between 10 and 20 percent of adult horses. Common symptoms include recurrent cough, labored breathing and exercise intolerance. Researchers noted increased levels of a specific protein in airway samples of horses with asthma when compared to healthy horses. In this study, the team will investigate if targeting this novel protein is a viable new therapeutic strategy to treat equine asthma.

Principal Investigator: Mary K. Sheats, DVM, PhD, North Carolina State University

Sponsors:

Study ID: D17EQ-029

Investigating the Anti-inflammatory Response in Horses with Colic

Colic is a major cause of mortality in horses because many horses experience complications after undergoing colic surgery. An overzealous anti-inflammatory response may be an important contributory factor in the development of complications. This study investigates key aspects of the compensatory anti-inflammatory response syndrome in horses with colic. An ability to characterize this response may allow veterinarians to guide therapy and formulate a more accurate prognosis.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Imogen C. Johns, Royal Veterinary College, United Kingdom

Sponsors:

Study ID: D13EQ-805

Investigating the Link Between Environmental Exposure to Chemicals and Equine Metabolic Syndrome

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) refers to a cluster of metabolic abnormalities that may increase a horse’s risk of laminitis. These abnormalities include high blood insulin, insulin resistance and obesity or abnormal accumulation of fat (often a “cresty neck”). In a prior study of more than 600 horses, researchers discovered a possible link between EMS and a horse’s exposure to pollutants, such as herbicides and pesticides used in agriculture. This finding correlates with recent research linking environmental pollutant exposure to metabolic syndrome in humans. In this study, researchers will determine whether pollutant concentrations in plasma are correlated to abnormal metabolic measurements and significant metabolic variation in horses with EMS. Identifying the individual and environmental factors that contribute to EMS will improve veterinarians’ ability to predict disease and provide additional opportunities for prevention, either through removal of environmental risks or development of therapeutic interventions.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Molly E. McCue, University of Minnesota

Sponsors:

Study ID: D15EQ-029

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