Study: Gene Therapy Can Help Reduce Equine Lameness
Injecting DNA into injured horse tendons and ligaments could help reduce lameness, according to recent study results from scientists at Kazan Federal University and Moscow State Academy, both in Russia, and The University of Nottingham, in the U.K.

Scientists used the gene therapy technology in horses that were lame due to injury. They found that within two to three weeks, horses were sound at the walk and trot.

“This pioneering study advances not only equine medicine but has real implications for how other species and humans are treated for lameness and other disorders in the future,” said Catrin Rutland, BSc, PGCHE, MSc, MMedSci, PhD, SFHEA, FAS, assistant professor of anatomy and developmental genetics at the University of Nottingham. “The horses returned to full health after their injuries and did not have any adverse side effects. This is a very exciting medical innovation.”

In their study, the researchers 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. Both the genes were derived from horses, resulting in the biosynthesis of natural horse proteins in the treated animals. They were cloned into a single plasmid DNA, which is both biologically safe and unlikely to provoke an immune reaction from the body, the team said.

The results also showed that the injured tissue within the horses limbs has fully recovered and 12 months after treatment, horses were fit, active, and had returned to work.

“Advancing medicine, relieving pain, and restoring function were the main aims of this study,” said Albert Rizvanov, PhD, DrSci (habilitation), who led the study and is based at Kazan Federal University. “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,” he added

The research was funded through a Program of Competitive Growth at Kazan Federal University.

The study, “Gene Therapy Using Plasmid DNA Encoding Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor 164 and Fibroblast Growth Factor 2 Genes for the Treatment of Horse Tendinitis and Desmitis: Case Reports,” was published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science.