Using horses to study asthma

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Image source: Burlington Equine Veterinary Services, LLC.

Talk about comparative physiology! Some older horses develop a condition called equine heaves, which is similar to asthma in humans. Horses that live in more humid environments that promote mold growth are more prone to the disorder than horses that have lived in dry environments. It is also common in stabled horses fed hay as a result of prolonged exposure to dust particles released while eating. Similar to humans with asthma, there seems to be a genetic link to the disorder in horses.

The treatment of horses with heaves is similar to humans: changing the environment to have fewer dust particles or mold as well as treatment with anti-inflammatory medications and sometimes bronchodilators (image above). This makes the horse an ideal model in which to study asthma. Dr. Virginia Buechner-Maxwell at Virginia Tech University says the condition is actually easier to study in a horse because larger samples of blood can be collected for testing and the animals comply with treatments for their condition better than humans. Her lab is also able to collect samples from the larynx of horses which requires only light sedation, whereas collecting similar samples from humans requires anesthesia since our larynx is more prone to spasms.

To read more or listen to the podcast from Virginia Public Radio, click here.

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Sources:
Virginia Public Radio

Camargo FC, et al., Heaves in Horses. Cooperative Extension Service, University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

Burlington Equine Veterinary Services, LLC

Comments

  1. #1 wedding dresses
    March 12, 2012

    This method is very useful, especially when changing the environment to have fewer dust particles or mold as well as treatment with anti-inflammatory medications and sometimes bronchodilators

  2. #2 14108870
    Hatfield, Pretoria, South Africa
    May 1, 2014

    Who would think that animals can help in the research of asthma in humans?
    RAO (recurrent airway obstruction) is a chronic inflammatory lung disease. The researchers found that RAO-susceptible horses have much less SCGB1A1 protein in their airways, which enhances inflammation. Symptoms in horses with RAO resemble those of humans with environmentally induced asthmathese.

    Findings do give hope that we can find novel treatments for asthma in humans. The condition is actually easier to study in a horse because larger samples of blood can be collected for testing and the animals comply with treatments for their condition better than humans.

    The treatment method is useful, because changing the environment and treatment with medications will help better asthma in both horses and humans.

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