An abundance of equine orthopedic research is under way at Colorado State.
"I wanted to answer questions that hadn't been answered." So says Wayne McIlwraith, BVSc, PhD, FRCVS, DSc, Dr. med vet (hc), Dipl. ACVS, about his arrival some 30 years ago as an assistant professor and equine surgeon at Colorado State University's (CSU) Department of Clinical Sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Those questions concerned how to better diagnose and treat musculoskeletal problems, particularly joint (articular) injuries and osteoarthritis: "Sixty percent of horses retire because of osteoarthritis–loss of articular cartilage and degradation of articular cartilage. It's a huge, frustrating disease."
The quest for those answers soon led the young New Zealander to form the Orthopaedic Research Center (ORC) at CSU in the mid-1980s. "I came to CSU in 1979 having just finished my PhD at Purdue and started doing relatively small research projects with surgical residents," recalls McIlwraith. "I had supervised three PhD students when Dr. Rick Howard started a PhD with me in 1993 and, working in Dr. Jenny Nyborg's lab (a very good molecular biology researcher), Rick cloned the gene sequences for interleukin-1 and interleukin- 1 receptor antagonist that set us on an upgraded pathway. Drs. Chris Kawcak and Dave Frisbie, during their residencies, set up a small laboratory in the Vet Teaching Hospital, where we started doing more sophisticated analyses, and this was when the ORC started to take off. I wanted to get to the next level of research, and this was aided by a foundation providing me with four years' salary for Drs. Kawcak and Frisbie to stay with us as assistant professors within the research program.