The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) Foundation has announced financial support for two research projects investigating support-limb laminitis, in which lameness in one limb results in laminitis in the opposite limb. Subsequent separation of the coffin bone from the hoof wall can cause pain and eventually displacement, either coffin bone rotation or sinking, in the foot.

Members of the AAEP have identified laminitis as the most important equine disease requiring research. Support-limb laminitis was the type of laminitis 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro succumbed to while healing from a severe fracture in a hind limb.

In one study, Hana Galantino-Homer, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACT, at the University of Pennsylvania will investigate the alterations that occur in the protein structure that supports the bone to the hoof connection. Foot specimens from horses affected by support limb laminitis will be used to study how nutrient deprivation and subsequent production of abnormal proteins (keratins) affect the support structures within the hoof. The goal is to understand the process of cell pathology in the foot to better predict, diagnose, and treat support-limb laminitis.

The second study, led by Samantha Brooks, PhD, at the University of Florida, seeks to understand the response of the cells in the support structures within the hoof. By utilizing RNA sequencing, genes that respond to the abnormal support in the foot will be identified and compared to normal feet. Understanding the gene upregulation will help identify the process