Two Decades of Equine Osteochondrosis Research Reviewed

Osteochondrosis is the central topic of a special issue of the Veterinary Journal.

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Twenty-two years after a prominent equine veterinary researcher declared it a primary research focus, osteochondrosis—together with other orthopedic disorders of juvenile horses—is now the central topic of a special issue of the Veterinary Journal.

Leo Jeffcott, BVetMed, PhD, FRCVS, DVSc, MA, VetMedDr (h.c.), currently emeritus professor of clinical research and training and of equine practice at the University of Sydney Faculty of Veterinary Science in Australia, first made that declaration in a 1991 review paper in Equine Veterinary Journal. Osteochondrosis research has since progressed immensely, leading veterinarians to hope that the disease’s detrimental effects on equine health and breeding economics might be significantly reduced in the near future, said Paul René van Weeren, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ECVS, professor in the department of equine sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Van Weeren and Jeffcott coauthored a review of osteochondrosis included in the Veterinary Journal special issue. “There is little hope that osteochondrosis will be eliminated within the next 20 years

if we stick to the current breeding goals regarding performance and aesthetics,” he said. “But further progress in the knowledge of cellular and molecular mechanisms will certainly make the condition more manageable and hence reduce the impact on equine health and welfare.”

The “current breeding goals” van Weeren mentioned include preserving the genetic traits of a specific performance or physical appearance rather than eliminating traits that might cause osteochondrosis, he said. However, that’s in part because researchers have yet to pinpoint how a horse passes osteochondrosis on to its foal, and the disease sometimes skips a generation. Until scientists are better able to determine which genes are responsible for osteochondrosis and how the genetic transfer occurs, researchers cannot make specific breeding recommendations

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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