The Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine’s Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center has begun offering a new therapy for treating lameness associated with osteoarthritis and cartilage damage in horses, a problem that affects all segments of the equine industry.

Lameness, which is recognized as an abnormality in the way a horse moves or stands, is typically associated with a painful musculosekeletal condition or a mechanical abnormality that hinders locomotion. In an April 2000 study by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Health Monitoring System, researchers found that one half of U.S. horse operations had reported having at least one horse suffer from lameness in the previous year. Leg, joint, and hoof problems are believed to be the most commonly perceived cause of the disease.

The new treatment, known as Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein therapy or IRAP™ therapy, consists of the injection of an autologous serum sample into the horse’s affected joint. The serum contains anti-inflammatory proteins that block the harmful effects of Interleukin-1, an inflammatory cytokine that has been shown to facilitate osteoarthritis by accelerating the destruction of cartilage.

The serum is obtained by drawing a 50 ml blood sample from the affected horse using a special syringe containing glass beads. The blood mixes with glass beads during a 24-hour incubation process. The blood is then spun in a centrifuge to separate the serum from the red blood cells.

Once enriched, the serum is divided into three to five treatments of four to five milliliters each. It is then injected into the horse’s affected joint by the Center’s veterinarians once a week.

Because the serum sample is derived from the horse’s own blood, it carries minimal risk of adverse reaction. According to a statement released by Arthrex Bio Systems, the company that produces the IRAP™ system, the device has been used worldwide by veterinary surgeons for over three years without negative reactions or side effects.

"We're please to be offering this cutting-edge treatment to our clients," said Dr. Nat White, the Jean Ellen duPont Shehan Professor and director of the center. “Lameness is a condition that affects many horses and this therapy is a very promising alternative to traditional treatments.”

The Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center is a Leesburg, Virginia, based full-service equine hospital that is owned by Virginia Tech and operated as one of three campuses that comprise the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine.

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