Farm Ireland

Sunday 20 May 2018

'The UCD team monitored him intensively throughout the night and day'

Case Study 2: Treatment for Colitis

Geraldine Hendricken's mare Vesper with her first foal by the thoroughbred Rajj
Geraldine Hendricken's mare Vesper with her first foal by the thoroughbred Rajj

When Geraldine Hendricken and her husband Paul Leete were faced with the possibility of euthanising their good mare due to tears to tendons in both front legs, they turned to the team at UCD for advice.

"Our 17.2hh Irish Draught mare had been hunting quite a bit and for her size, it was all probably a bit too much and she went quite lame," said the Carlow woman. "Our own vet took a series of x-rays and discovered she had a 60pc tear in one tendon and 30pc in the other. He suggested putting her down, but she was only six at the time and it was not a decision we wanted to make lightly. Instead we contacted UCD to see if they would consider doing stem cell therapy on her."

The mare first underwent Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP), a new in house therapy for the treatment of equine tendon and ligament injuries. It is a welcome addition to the range of therapies available to treat these injuries because it offers an affordable, practical and scientifically based point of care treatment alternative to horse owners and trainers alike.

Blood is taken from the horse and spun in a centrifuge to separate the serum from the red blood cells. The serum is then spun for a further 15 minutes, after which the platelets are left concentrated at the bottom of the sample. Excess serum is then removed and the platelets are re-suspended and ready for injection into the injured tendon. It has proven to be successful in not only relieving the pain, but also in jump-starting the healing process.

A few days later they began the stem cell treatment by taking bone marrow from her sternum which was done under sedation. The blood was then sent to the UK, where stem cells were extracted, cultured to expand the numbers, and recombined with the serum for re-injection.

"This process took several weeks, during which she was sent home."

Six weeks later the mare was returned to UCD and the horse was sedated and placed in the stocks while the stem cells were re-injected into the tendons, after which she was placed on several months' box-rest and then light in-hand exercise. "Within 18 months she had recovered 100pc and resumed hunting. She has since bred a foal and is now in foal to our own Arab stallion," Geraldine said. "This area is constantly being researched and developed here at UCD and we are now finding new ways of using stem cell therapy in animals. We are fortunate to receive research funding to do this because of its translational character and potential benefits for humans exploiting a much bigger funding base," said Pieter Brama.

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