Home Science Fallen racehorses could be spared from euthanasia as scientists cure lameness with DNA injections

Fallen racehorses could be spared from euthanasia as scientists cure lameness with DNA injections

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Fallen racehorses could be spared from euthanasia as scientists cure lameness with DNA injections

Racehorses who go lame could be spared euthanasia after scientists showed that injecting DNA into tendons and ligaments allowed the animals to compete again in just two months.

Lameness, when a horse’s gait is hampered by pain or a restriction, is the most prevalent reason for older horses being put down and is a common problem for racehorses after a fall.

But now scientists at the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science have shown that injecting two growth genes into the damaged area triggers healing.

The gene therapy was trialled in horses that had gone lame due to injury and within three weeks the animals were able to walk and trot. By two months they were back to full health, galloping and competing.

Dr Catrin Rutland, Assistant Professor of Anatomy and Developmental Genetics, who led the work at Nottingham, said: “Horses that go lame can suffer from pain and may not be able to compete and owners sometimes decide to put down their horse.

“If this treatment becomes accessible in the veterinary clinics, we may be able to treat lameness and the pain and get racing horses, other working horse and pet horses back to health and may mean that they are not euthanised, in pain or unable to have a healthy life.

“The horses in this study were able to race and compete again after a very short period of time.”


Fallen racehorses could be spared from euthanasia as scientists cure lameness with DNA injections

The gene therapy used a combination of the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor gene VEGF164, to enhance the growth of blood vessels and bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2), which plays an important role in the development of bone and cartilage.

Current medical therapies for lameness have a relapse rate of 60 per cent and even the best regenerative medicine treatments have a 20 per cent relapse rate and take five to six months to work.

The results also showed that the tissue within the horses limbs has also fully recovered and 12 months after the revolutionary treatment the horses were completely fit, active and pain free.

No side effects or bad reactions were seen in the horses treated.

The study has implications not just for the veterinary world but the future of human medicine  where similar tendon and ligament injuries are common.

Overall study leader Professor Albert Rizvanov, of Kazan Federal University, in Russia, said: “Advancing medicine, relieving pain and restoring function were the main aims of this study.

“We have shown that these are possible and within a much shorter time span than treatments available at the moment. In addition, we could use this type of therapy in other injuries and in many other situations ranging from fertility problems through to spinal cord injuries.

“Our next step is to secure more funding for an even larger trial to help more animals and improve and treat other disorders in the hope that one day we can routinely use this treatment around the world.”

The research was published in the academic journal Frontiers in Veterinary Science.

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