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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

Testing the Effectiveness of a Melanoma Vaccine in Horses

The goal of this project is to demonstrate whether a vaccine currently used to treat melanomas in dogs is safe and effective for treating melanomas in horses. Melanomas are among the most common tumors in horses; they occur in all breeds and colors of horses and are especially common in grey horses. This therapy has the potential to not only treat but also to prevent the development of equine melanomas.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jeffrey C. Phillips, Lincoln Memorial University

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Arabian Horse Foundation

Study ID: D12EQ-037

Understanding Antibiotic Resistance in Rhodococcus equi Isolates from Foals

Foals with Rhodococcus equi (R. equi) are usually treated with a combination of macrolide and rifampin, however, over the past 10 years, resistance to these has increased significantly. In some farms, up to 40 percent of foals may have resistant isolates, and foals with macrolide-resistant isolates are much more likely to die from infection. The cause for antibiotic resistance is unknown. This study will identify the mechanisms by which R. equi isolates have become resistant and evaluate the genetic diversity of macrolide-resistant isolates. In addition, they will determine if macrolide-resistant isolates have a greater ability to cause disease than their macrolide-susceptible counterparts. Macrolide resistance among R. equi isolates is an emerging threat facing horses and this study will provide the first step toward understanding it.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Steeve Giguere, University of Georgia

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14EQ-042

Understanding bacterial infections in horses

Summary: Using cultured cells, researchers will study how the horse’s immune system responds to endotoxins, toxic substances in bacteria responsible for many horse diseases, including gastrointestinal disease and foal sepsis.

Description: Endotoxins bind to bacterial cell walls and are released when the bacterium ruptures or disintegrates. Endotoxins stimulate the immune system, which leads to inflammation and contributes to severe illness associated with many common equine health challenges. These include diarrhea, gastrointestinal disease, and foal infections. Immune cells react to endotoxins by producing a group of small molecular particles called micro-RNAs that turn on and off specific genes that direct inflammation. Researchers will expose immune cells to endotoxins to study the microRNAs they produce. Findings will improve our understanding of microRNA response to bacterial endotoxins which will help researchers develop more effective methods for detecting and treating bacterial infections and associated inflammation in horses.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Virginia A Buechner-Maxwell, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Sponsors:

Study ID:

Understanding Genes That Play a Role in Herpesvirus Infection

Equine herpesvirus type 1 (EHV-1) is a threat to horses worldwide, causing abortions and neurological disorders. Scientists from Cornell University will look at the interaction between clinically normal cells and EHV-1 in an effort to understand how the virus gains entry into cells of the immune system. A deeper knowledge of this process will improve understanding of the initial steps of virus infection and provide new approaches to developing methods for control and treatment of EHV-1 infection.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Douglas F. Antczak, Cornell University

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: USA Equestrian Trust

Study ID: D12EQ-026

Understanding Immune Response to Bacterial Infections in Young Foals

Young foals have immature immune systems, which increases their risk of death due to bacterial infections, such as sepsis, during their first few weeks of life. Dendritic cells play a vital role in initiating and directing the immune response to bacterial infection, and they are particularly important in protecting newborn foals during their first encounter with infectious agents. Using a laboratory model of equine dendritic cells exposed to bacteria, researchers will explore key factors involved in the foal’s immune response to bacterial infections. Findings from this study could help direct the development of novel preventive and therapeutic interventions that would decrease bacterial infections and associated mortality in young foals.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Kelsey A Hart, The University of Georgia

Sponsors:

Study ID: D15EQ-303

Understanding Mechanisms That Lead to Laminitis

In laminitis, the tissue that suspends the horse’s axial skeleton within the hoof capsule separates at the junction between coffin bone–associated (dermal) and hoof wall–associated (epidermal) tissue layers. This separation allows the coffin bone to rotate and sink within the hoof capsule, causing crippling lameness. This study evaluates what causes separation of the epidermal and dermal layers of the digital laminae in horses with laminitis. The findings may lead to therapeutic management of this disease.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Samuel J. Black, University of Massachusetts

Sponsors:

Study ID: D13EQ-004

Understanding the role of abnormal calcium regulation in equine muscle diseases

Summary: Researchers will investigate how equine muscle cells regulate calcium movement, and examine its role in equine muscle diseases. 

Description: Shuttling calcium between cellular compartments is critical to normal muscle function. Abnormal movement of calcium can contribute to muscle degeneration and even failure. Researchers will explore biological mechanisms involved in equine muscle calcium regulation and “tying up,” a complex muscle disorder of horses. Researchers also will study how key equine inhibitory proteins affect the structural dynamics of the muscle calcium pump which helps control intramuscular calcium levels in the body. By discovering how horses regulate muscle calcium levels, researchers hope to identify new therapeutic targets for treating debilitating equine muscle diseases.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Stephanie J. Valberg, Michigan State University

Sponsors: United States Eventing Association 

Study ID:

Understanding Two Common Causes of Tying-Up in Horses

Equine exertional rhabdomyolysis, a common syndrome in horses, involves episodes of muscle stiffness, sweating and tachycardia, and occasionally, severe and widespread muscle cell death, recumbency and death. Two genetic forms, recurrent exertional rhabdomyolysis and polysaccharide storage myopathy, are common causes of tying-up in horses, but in both diseases, the underlying mechanisms that lead to the clinical signs are poorly understood. Using cultured cells, researchers will evaluate pathways that generate and control energy production and determine whether they are defective in each of the disorders. This work will improve understanding of each of these diseases and, in so doing, may identify new ways to treat these debilitating disorders of horses. 

Principal Investigator: Dr. Charlotte J. Maile, Royal Veterinary College, Fellowship Training Grant

Sponsors:

Study ID: D14EQ-404

Understanding Why Some Horses Seem Predisposed to Metabolic Syndrome

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) has emerged as one of the most common causes of laminitis in horses and ponies, and evidence suggests that certain animals are genetically predisposed to develop the disease. In this project, researchers will study two suspect genes and determine if they are associated with the development of EMS. This study brings together the expertise of researchers from four institutions and has the potential to greatly advance the understanding of EMS and laminitis susceptibility.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Raymond J. Geor, Michigan State University

Sponsors: Co-sponsor: Smoke Rise Foundation

Study ID: D12EQ-028

Unravelling genetic mechanisms associated with corneal eye disorder in Friesian horses

Summary: Researchers will investigate a genetic predisposition in Friesian horses to an eye disorder, bilateral corneal stromal loss, that can cause vision loss.

Description: Horses with bilateral corneal stromal loss develop lesions on approximately the same location of the cornea, or outer surface, on both eyes. While these lesions typically respond well to surgical repair, if left untreated, horses are at-risk for cornea rupture and vision loss. Researchers will investigate suspected genetic mechanisms associated with BCSL in Friesian horses, a breed with an increased risk for this eye disorder. Identifying genes involved in disease development is a critical first step toward developing a screening test to improve diagnosis and lower disease incidence in Friesian horses.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Rebecca R Bellone, University of California/Davis

Sponsors:

Study ID:

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