Researchers recently determined that the use of functional electrical stimulation (FES) in horses resulted in a significant improvement in the density and distribution of mitochondria in muscle.

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“When the muscle has a higher number of mitochondria, and these mitochondria are placed in the most advantageous area of the muscle cells, the muscle can utilize oxygen much more effectively,” explained lead researcher Sheila Schils, PhD “Therefore, the muscle can do its job better.”

An interdisciplinary team of human and equine researchers, all of whom specialize in muscle cell function and the clinical use of FES, collaborated on the recent study. The team included Ugo Carraro, MD, from the IRRCS Fondazione Ospedale San Camilllo in Venice, Italy, and Helmut Kern, MD, who utilizes FES for spinal cord injuries in his medical clinic in Vienna, Austria stated.

"We not only saw the improvements in muscle function under the microscope, but we also saw clinical improvements in the reduction of muscle spasms in the backs of the horses studied,” Schils said. “It has taken some time to develop the appropriate protocols for the use of FES in horses and these results show that we are on the right track.”

Many equine practitioners in the United States and Europe are currently using FES in equine rehabilitation and for performance enhancement, and this research adds to the understanding of what is happening at the cellular level.

“We are presently looking at future research projects to continue our focus on the benefits of FES in equine and human practice,&#