Horses & Ponies

Photo: two foals standing next to each other

Below, please find links to all of the clinical trials currently accepting equine patients. The studies are organized by discipline and include a multitude of information, including (but not limited to) the study’s purpose, benefits for participating, and financial incentive information.

If you have any questions, please contact the individual outlined at the end of each trial summary.  For information about the services provided by the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, please visit the Equine Services page through the Large Animal Clinic of the hospital. If you would like more information regarding equine research, education and public service, please contact our Center for Equine Health.

Cardiology

Ventricular Septal Defects in Arabian Horses: Identifying the Genetics

Title: Equine Ventricular Septal Defects

Purpose of Study: Ventricular Septal Defects (VSDs) are the most common congenital heart defects in horses. They allow blood to shunt inappropriately from the left ventricle to the right ventricle via an opening in the ventricular septum. This blood recirculates through the lungs and left chambers, resulting in enlargement of these structures. Arabian horses are overrepresented in horses presenting for VSDs, and we are investigating the possibility of a genetic predisposition for this defect.

Contact: Eric Ontiveros, Stern Laboratory Coordinator: (esontiveros@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-4892)

Participation Requirements: Arabian horses or Arabian crosses that have a right-sided systolic heart murmur, or a veterinary diagnosis of VSD. Horses must tolerate handling and stand for the echocardiogram.

Initial Evaluation for Participation: None.

Procedures: Collection and submission of a blood sample (3ml in an EDTA purple top) for DNA extraction by the cardiac genetics laboratory

Benefits: Results from this study will determine if a genetic factor plays a role in the development of Ventricular Septal Defects in Arabian horses. This finding would have great significance regarding screening predisposed horses and hopefully guiding breeding management to avoid continuation of this defect in the Arabian horse.

Owner Responsibilities:

  • Submission of a blood sample either by the owner or referring veterinarian
  • If your Arabian was diagnosed with a heart murmur but you are unsure whether it qualifies for the study, please contact us. In some cases, we may be able to review your horse's medical records or even fund a cardiac examination for your horse.

Printable Flyer (PDF)

Genetics

Leopard Complex Spotting in Appaloosa Horses

Title: Leopard complex spotting in horses as a model for human vitiligo

Purpose: Leopard Complex spotting is a group of white spotting patterns that occurs in several breeds of horses and has been associated with several ocular conditions, which have similarities to a human disorder known as vitiligo. Two genes have been previously implicated in the loss of pigment in Appaloosas. The purpose of this study is to 1) investigate the morphology of the pigment producing cells (melanocytes) and determine if any ultrastructural differences exist among varying appaloosa genotypes, and 2) examine previously associated genes to determine the biological mechanism of pigment loss.

Contact: Dr. Rebecca Bellone (rbellone@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-9299)

Participation Requirements: 

  • Female Appaloosas (under 5 years old) that are dark bay/brown with either no patterning (solid, non-characteristic), minimal patterning or large patterning (see Printable Flyer for photo examples) and have known pedigrees.
  • Horses must be located within a 2-hour driving distance from the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.

Initial Evaluation for Participation: None.

Procedures: If you agree to let your horse participate in this study, the following will happen:

  • Perform a skin biopsy procedure by a licensed veterinarian at your farm to culture melanocytes (pigment producing cells)
  • Collect blood and hair samples for DNA isolation to confirm coat color genotypes
  • Photography of the horse to document coat color phenotype
  • Discussion of the horse’s medical history
  • Follow up phone calls or emails may be necessary if any questions about the horse’s medical history arise after the examination.

Benefits: All costs associated with the study will be paid by the sponsor.

Results of this work will enable a better understanding of the biology behind melanocyte loss and associated disorders in both horses and humans. Information gained may help breeders to make informed mating decisions, and utilized by veterinarians to predict risk of developing disease for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Owner Responsibilities: We expect that participation in this clinical trial will last for about 30 minutes but may take as long as one hour.  If you allow your horse to participate in this study, you will be responsible for cooperating with the veterinarian to collect samples, providing the requested pedigree documents and medical records, and covering any costs associated with injuries while participating in this trial.  

Printable Flyer (PDF)

Equine Recurrent Uveitis in Appaloosa Horses

Title: Genomic investigation of Equine Recurrent Uveitis in Appaloosa horses

Purpose: Equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) is the leading cause of blindness in horses, marked by repeated episodes of inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye. Appaloosa horses, known best for their white coat spotting patterns (termed leopard complex or LP), are eight times more likely than any other breed to develop this disease and four times more likely to go blind, suggesting genetics plays a major contributing role. However, little is known about the specific genetic factors involved. The objective of this study is to determine the genetic factors contributing to ERU in Appaloosa horses.

Contact: Drs. Mary Lassaline (lasutter@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-0290) or Rebecca Bellone (rbellone@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-9299) 

Participation Requirements: Appaloosas with known pedigrees

Initial Evaluation for Participation: None.

Procedures: 

  • Examination of the horse’s eyes by a veterinary ophthalmologist
  • Photography of the horse to document coat color and any abnormalities found in the eyes
  • Collection of mane hair and blood samples will be utilized to examine the horses DNA
  • Discussion of the horse’s medical history
  • Follow up phone calls or emails may be necessary if any questions about the horse’s medical history arise after the examination.
  • If any horse objects to having their eyes examined, to having mane hair pulled, or blood drawn, these procedures would not be performed.

Benefits: The results of this work may help to lower the incidence of this ocular disease in Appaloosas and other affected breeds, help breeders to make informed mating decisions, and be utilized by veterinarians to predict risk of developing disease for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Owner Responsibilities: We expect that participation in this clinical trial will last for about 15 minutes but may take as long as one hour. If you allow your horse to participate in this study, you will be responsible for covering any injury sustained while participating and further diagnostics or therapy associated with the diagnosis of ERU if a presumptive diagnosis of ERU is made for your horse.

Printable Flyer (PDF)

Bilateral Corneal Stromal Loss in Friesian Horses

Title: Genetic investigation of bilateral corneal stromal loss in Friesian horses

Purpose: Bilateral corneal stromal loss (BCSL) is a potentially progressive ocular disease that can be associated with pain, vision loss and even loss of the eye. The objective of this study is to determine the role genetics plays in BCSL in Friesian horses. This study is designed to determine the incidence of BCSL in the breed, to determine the mode of inheritance if a single gene is involved, and identify candidate genes for further investigation.

Contact: Drs. Mary Lassaline (lasutter@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-0290) or Rebecca Bellone (rbellone@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-9299) 

Participation Requirements: Friesian horses with and without a diagnosis of bilateral corneal stromal loss (BCSL)

Initial Evaluation for Participation: Any Friesian horse is invited to participate. Please contact Drs. Mary Lassaline (lasutter@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-0290) or Rebecca Bellone (rbellone@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-9299) for more information.

Procedures: 

  • Participation in this study would involve up to one hour of time per horse included in the study. This time may involve examination of the horse’s eyes by a veterinary ophthalmologist, photography of the horse to document coat color and any abnormalities found in the eyes, collection of hair samples from the horse’s mane, and discussion of the horse’s medical history.
  • For some horses, hair samples may be collected from the mane to examine DNA for genes that may be involved in the development of BCSL.
  • If any horse objects to having their eyes examined, or to having mane hair pulled, these procedures would not be performed.

Benefits: All costs associated with the study will be paid by the sponsor/department. However, if a presumptive diagnosis of BCSL is made for your horse, any further diagnostics or therapy associated with the diagnosis of BCSL will be your responsibility. Copies of any biopsy reports from horses that have been affected with BCSL may be requested.

We cannot promise any benefits to your horse or other animals from your taking part in this clinical trial; however, possible benefits include lowering the incidence of this ocular disease in Friesians and other affected breeds, helping breeders to make informed mating decisions, and better prediction of the risk of developing disease for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Owner Responsibilities: If you allow your horse to participate in this study, you will not be responsible for anything other than allowing us access to examine your horse and pull hairs from the mane.

Printable Flyer (PDF)

Ventricular Septal Defects in Arabian Horses

Title: Equine Ventricular Septal Defects

Purpose of Study: Ventricular Septal Defects (VSDs) are the most common congenital heart defects in horses. They allow blood to shunt inappropriately from the left ventricle to the right ventricle via an opening in the ventricular septum. This blood recirculates through the lungs and left chambers, resulting in enlargement of these structures. Arabian horses are overrepresented in horses presenting for VSDs, and we are investigating the possibility of a genetic predisposition for this defect.

Contact: Eric Ontiveros, Stern Laboratory Coordinator: (esontiveros@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-4892)

Participation Requirements: Arabian horses or Arabian crosses that have a right-sided systolic heart murmur, or a veterinary diagnosis of VSD. Horses must tolerate handling and stand for the echocardiogram.

Initial Evaluation for Participation: None.

Procedures: Collection and submission of a blood sample (3ml in an EDTA purple top) for DNA extraction by the cardiac genetics laboratory

Benefits: Results from this study will determine if a genetic factor plays a role in the development of Ventricular Septal Defects in Arabian horses. This finding would have great significance regarding screening predisposed horses and hopefully guiding breeding management to avoid continuation of this defect in the Arabian horse.

Owner Responsibilities:

  • Submission of a blood sample either by the owner or referring veterinarian
  • If your Arabian was diagnosed with a heart murmur but you are unsure whether it qualifies for the study, please contact us. In some cases, we may be able to review your horse's medical records or even fund a cardiac examination for your horse.

Printable Flyer (PDF)

Ocular Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Haflinger, Beligan, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses

Title: Genetic Investigation of Ocular Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Haflinger, Belgian, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses

Purpose: Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is one of the most common forms of cancer to affect the eye in horses, frequently occurring at the limbus, where the clear cornea meets the white of the eye, or on the nictitating membrane, also known as the third eyelid.  This type of eye cancer affects Haflingers, Belgians, Percherons, Appaloosas, and Arabians among others and the objective of this study is to determine the role genetics plays in ocular squamous cell carcinoma in these breeds.  This study is designed to determine the incidence of SCC in the listed breeds, to determine the modes of inheritance and identify DNA variants that put horses at risk for this cancer. 

Contact: Drs. Mary Lassaline (lasutter@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-0290), Rebecca Bellone (rbellone@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-9299), or Kelly Knickelbein (kknickelbein@ucdavis.edu or 530-718-8359)

Participation Requirements: Haflinger, Belgian, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses with confirmed ocular SCC (confirmed by pathology), or horses that have not been diagnosed with ocular SCC that are at least 13 years old.  Horses that are suspicious for ocular SCC are invited to participate, but confirmation would be required prior to inclusion in the study.

Initial Evaluation for Participation: Any horse with confirmed ocular SCC does not need to be evaluated in person to participate.  Participation for horses with confirmed ocular SCC involves providing (1) a copy of a pathology report confirming ocular SCC, (2) the horse’s registered name for pedigree analysis, and (3) a blood or hair sample.  Horses that have not had ocular SCC and are at least 13 years old will need to be examined by a boarded veterinary ophthalmologist to confirm that they do not have ocular SCC.  This may be done at UC-Davis VMTH or elsewhere.  

Procedures:

  • Participation in this clinical trial, which could last between 15 minutes to one hour, will include discussion of the horse’s medical history, documentation on known pedigree information, examination of the horse’s eyes by a veterinary ophthalmologist, photography of the horse to document coat color and any abnormalities found in the eyes, and collection of hair samples from the horse’s mane. 
    • Examination of a horse’s eyes is similar to examination of a person’s eyes, with lights and magnifying lenses shone into the eyes to see if they are normal, or if any signs suspicious for ocular SCC are present. 
    • For some horses, a blood sample may be collected from the jugular vein, and hair samples may be collected from the mane. This is similar to pulling the mane for show but only pulling a very small sample of about 50 hairs. This blood and hair would be used to isolate DNA for genetic studies to help understand which genes may be involved in the development of ocular SCC. 
  • Follow up phone calls or emails may be necessary if any questions about the horse’s medical history arise after the examination. 
  • If any horse objects to having their eyes examined or to having blood taken or mane hair pulled, these procedures would not be performed.

Benefits: If you are selected to participate in the study, the study will cover the costs associated with eye examination, blood collection, and mane pulling; however, if a presumptive diagnosis of SCC is made for your horse, any further diagnostics or therapy associated with the diagnosis of SCC will be your responsibility.

We cannot promise any benefits to your horse or other animals from your taking part in this clinical trial; however, possible benefits include lowering the incidence of this common eye cancer in Haflinger, Belgian, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses, helping breeders to make informed mating decisions, and better prediction of the risk of developing disease for earlier diagnosis and treatment.  

Owner Responsibilities: Financially, you will be responsible for covering any costs associated with injuries sustained while participating in this trial and any costs associated with follow up of your animal at VMTH for assessment.

Printable Flyer (PDF)

News Article
NOW AVAILABLE! Ocular Squamous Cell Carcinoma Genetic Test

Internal Medicine

Equine Multinodular Pulmonary Fibrosis (EMPF): Assessing Viral Kinetics of Valacyclovir

Title: Effect of valacyclovir on EHV-5 viral kinetics in horses diagnosed with EMPF

Purpose of Study: Equine multinodular pulmonary fibrosis (EMPF) is a recently reported sporadic, progressive and fibrosing interstitial lung disease of adult horses. There is growing evidence that EMPF is associated with equine herpesvirus-5 (EHV-5). Histopathological results coupled with positive EHV-5 by qPCR on pulmonary tissue are considered the current gold standard for EMPF diagnosis. Valacyclovir, an anti-herpetic drug, is routinely used to treat horses with EMPF. The effect of this anti-herpetic drug has not been determined in regard to its capability to reduce viral loads of EHV-5 in blood, nasal secretions and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. Due to the costs of the drug, it is imperative to determine if the drug has an antiviral effect against EHV-5.

Contact: Contact Dr. Nicola Pusterla at npusterla@ucdavis.edu or Dr. Charlotte Easton-Jones at caeastonjones@ucdavis.edu 

Participation Requirements: Horses diagnosed with EMPF based on a lung biopsy

Initial Evaluation for Participation: The case can be referred to the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital once full diagnostic work-up has been completed or the case can be worked-up at the VMTH. Costs for the diagnostic work-up will be assumed by the client (clinical assessment, minimal data base (CBC and biochemical panel), chest radiographs, BALF collection and cytology, lung biopsy with histopathology). Costs for EHV-5 testing will not be charged to the client.

Procedures: If you agree to let your cat participate in this study, the following will happen:

  • Your horse will receive valacyclovir tablets provided by the researchers for 10 days. Blood and nasal secretions will be collected daily during the 10 days of valacyclovir treatment.
  • Immediately following the 10-days of oral valacyclovir treatment and 30 days post-treatment, you will need to bring your horse in for re-examination, blood and nasal secretion collection, and bronchoalveolar lavage.

Benefits: The study will cover the valacyclovir treatment and costs associated with the testing for EHV-5, recheck examinations with blood work and BALF analysis.

We cannot promise any benefits to your horse taking part in this clinical trial; however, the results of this longitudinal study will help us determine if valacyclovir has a beneficial effect on the EHV-5 viral loads in blood, nasal secretions and bronchoalveolar lavage fluid. This information is very important to improve the treatment of EMPF.

Owner Responsibilities: The daily collection of blood and nasal secretions can be performed at the VMTH while the horse is hospitalized or at the location where the horse is stabled if the referring veterinarian and/or the client are willing to collect the samples. The client will need to bring the horse back to the VMTH for the follow-up collection (at the end of the 10-day valacyclovir treatment and 30 days later).

Printable Flyer (PDF)

Oncology

Ocular Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Understanding the Genetics in Haflinger, Beligan, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses

Title: Genetic Investigation of Ocular Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Haflinger, Belgian, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses

Purpose: Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is one of the most common forms of cancer to affect the eye in horses, frequently occurring at the limbus, where the clear cornea meets the white of the eye, or on the nictitating membrane, also known as the third eyelid.  This type of eye cancer affects Haflingers, Belgians, Percherons, Appaloosas, and Arabians among others and the objective of this study is to determine the role genetics plays in ocular squamous cell carcinoma in these breeds.  This study is designed to determine the incidence of SCC in the listed breeds, to determine the modes of inheritance and identify DNA variants that put horses at risk for this cancer. 

Contact: Drs. Mary Lassaline (lasutter@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-0290), Rebecca Bellone (rbellone@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-9299), or Kelly Knickelbein (kknickelbein@ucdavis.edu or 530-718-8359)

Participation Requirements: Haflinger, Belgian, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses with confirmed ocular SCC (confirmed by pathology), or horses that have not been diagnosed with ocular SCC that are at least 13 years old.  Horses that are suspicious for ocular SCC are invited to participate, but confirmation would be required prior to inclusion in the study.

Initial Evaluation for Participation: Any horse with confirmed ocular SCC does not need to be evaluated in person to participate.  Participation for horses with confirmed ocular SCC involves providing (1) a copy of a pathology report confirming ocular SCC, (2) the horse’s registered name for pedigree analysis, and (3) a blood or hair sample.  Horses that have not had ocular SCC and are at least 13 years old will need to be examined by a boarded veterinary ophthalmologist to confirm that they do not have ocular SCC.  This may be done at UC-Davis VMTH or elsewhere.  

Procedures:

  • Participation in this clinical trial, which could last between 15 minutes to one hour, will include discussion of the horse’s medical history, documentation on known pedigree information, examination of the horse’s eyes by a veterinary ophthalmologist, photography of the horse to document coat color and any abnormalities found in the eyes, and collection of hair samples from the horse’s mane. 
    • Examination of a horse’s eyes is similar to examination of a person’s eyes, with lights and magnifying lenses shone into the eyes to see if they are normal, or if any signs suspicious for ocular SCC are present. 
    • For some horses, a blood sample may be collected from the jugular vein, and hair samples may be collected from the mane. This is similar to pulling the mane for show but only pulling a very small sample of about 50 hairs. This blood and hair would be used to isolate DNA for genetic studies to help understand which genes may be involved in the development of ocular SCC. 
  • Follow up phone calls or emails may be necessary if any questions about the horse’s medical history arise after the examination. 
  • If any horse objects to having their eyes examined or to having blood taken or mane hair pulled, these procedures would not be performed.

Benefits: If you are selected to participate in the study, the study will cover the costs associated with eye examination, blood collection, and mane pulling; however, if a presumptive diagnosis of SCC is made for your horse, any further diagnostics or therapy associated with the diagnosis of SCC will be your responsibility.

We cannot promise any benefits to your horse or other animals from your taking part in this clinical trial; however, possible benefits include lowering the incidence of this common eye cancer in Haflinger, Belgian, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses, helping breeders to make informed mating decisions, and better prediction of the risk of developing disease for earlier diagnosis and treatment.  

Owner Responsibilities: Financially, you will be responsible for covering any costs associated with injuries sustained while participating in this trial and any costs associated with follow up of your animal at VMTH for assessment.

Printable Flyer (PDF)

News Article
NOW AVAILABLE! Ocular Squamous Cell Carcinoma Genetic Test

Ophthalmology

Equine Recurrent Uveitis: Understanding the Genetics in Appaloosa Horses

Title: Genomic investigation of Equine Recurrent Uveitis in Appaloosa horses

Purpose: Equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) is the leading cause of blindness in horses, marked by repeated episodes of inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye. Appaloosa horses, known best for their white coat spotting patterns (termed leopard complex or LP), are eight times more likely than any other breed to develop this disease and four times more likely to go blind, suggesting genetics plays a major contributing role. However, little is known about the specific genetic factors involved. The objective of this study is to determine the genetic factors contributing to ERU in Appaloosa horses.

Contact: Drs. Mary Lassaline (lasutter@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-0290) or Rebecca Bellone (rbellone@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-9299) 

Participation Requirements: Appaloosas with known pedigrees

Initial Evaluation for Participation: None.

Procedures: 

  • Examination of the horse’s eyes by a veterinary ophthalmologist
  • Photography of the horse to document coat color and any abnormalities found in the eyes
  • Collection of hair samples from the horse’s mane and/or a blood sample to analyze the DNA
  • Discussion of the horse’s medical history
  • Follow up phone calls or emails may be necessary if any questions about the horse’s medical history arise after the examination.
  • If any horse objects to having their eyes examined, to having mane hair pulled, or blood drawn, these procedures would not be performed.

Benefits: The results of this work may help to lower the incidence of this ocular disease in Appaloosas and other affected breeds, help breeders to make informed mating decisions, and be utilized by veterinarians to predict risk of developing disease for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Owner Responsibilities: We expect that participation in this clinical trial will last for about 15 minutes but may take as long as one hour. If you allow your horse to participate in this study, you will be responsible for covering any injury sustained while participating and further diagnostics or therapy associated with the diagnosis of ERU if a presumptive diagnosis of ERU is made for your horse.

Printable Flyer (PDF)

Bilateral Corneal Stromal Loss: Understanding the Genetics in Friesian Horses

Title: Genetic investigation of bilateral corneal stromal loss in Friesian horses

Purpose: Bilateral corneal stromal loss (BCSL) is a potentially progressive ocular disease that can be associated with pain, vision loss and even loss of the eye. The objective of this study is to determine the role genetics plays in BCSL in Friesian horses. This study is designed to determine the incidence of BCSL in the breed, to determine the mode of inheritance if a single gene is involved, and identify candidate genes for further investigation.

Contact: Drs. Mary Lassaline (lasutter@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-0290) or Rebecca Bellone (rbellone@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-9299) 

Participation Requirements: Friesian horses with and without a diagnosis of bilateral corneal stromal loss (BCSL)

Initial Evaluation for Participation: Any Friesian horse is invited to participate. Please contact Drs. Mary Lassaline (lasutter@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-0290) or Rebecca Bellone (rbellone@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-9299) for more information.

Procedures: 

  • Participation in this study would involve up to one hour of time per horse included in the study. This time may involve examination of the horse’s eyes by a veterinary ophthalmologist, photography of the horse to document coat color and any abnormalities found in the eyes, collection of hair samples from the horse’s mane, and discussion of the horse’s medical history.
  • For some horses, hair samples may be collected from the mane to examine DNA for genes that may be involved in the development of BCSL.
  • If any horse objects to having their eyes examined, or to having mane hair pulled, these procedures would not be performed.

Benefits: All costs associated with the study will be paid by the sponsor/department. However, if a presumptive diagnosis of BCSL is made for your horse, any further diagnostics or therapy associated with the diagnosis of BCSL will be your responsibility. Copies of any biopsy reports from horses that have been affected with BCSL may be requested.

We cannot promise any benefits to your horse or other animals from your taking part in this clinical trial; however, possible benefits include lowering the incidence of this ocular disease in Friesians and other affected breeds, helping breeders to make informed mating decisions, and better prediction of the risk of developing disease for earlier diagnosis and treatment.

Owner Responsibilities: If you allow your horse to participate in this study, you will not be responsible for anything other than allowing us access to examine your horse and pull hairs from the mane.

Printable Flyer (PDF)

Equine Recurrent Uveitis: Assessing a Stem Cell Therapy

Title: Efficacy of Autologous Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Treatment of Equine Recurrent Uveitis Following Intravenous Injection

Purpose: Equine recurrent uveitis (ERU) is caused by inflammation of the uveal tract of the eye and is the most common cause of blindness in horses. ERU often involves lifelong medical therapy or surgery, which holds the potential for a variety of potentially serious complications. Because fat-derived stem cells are known to regulate inflammation and facilitate tissue repair, we wish to investigate the effectiveness of a new stem cell therapy for ERU and to better understand how stem cells work to limit inflammation. This treatment has the potential for being relatively non-invasive and removing the need for lifelong treatment.

Contact: Drs. Steve Hollingsworth at srhollingsworth@ucdavis.edu or Mary Lassaline (lasutter@ucdavis.edu

Participation Requirements: Horses who have had multiple episodes of anterior uveitis within the last 12-18 months. The MSCs will be injected intravenously either during a period of inflammation or during a quiescent period.

Initial Evaluation for Participation: Horses that are candidates for inclusion into the study will be examined by a board certified veterinary ophthalmologist. This examination will determine if the horse has evidence of current or past uveitis.

Procedures: The trial procedures include the following:

  • Your horse will be sedated using common sedatives for each treatment. Local anesthetic will be used to provide optimal pain management for fat removal in addition to sedation.
  • A small amount of fat from an area near the tail of your horse will be removed in order to isolate and culture the MSCs. Your horse will be admitted for fat removal and monitored prior to its discharge home (likely the same day).
  • Two weeks after fat harvest, your horse will receive its first course of therapy, which involves an intravenous infusion of 50 million MSCs.
  • Two weeks after the first MSC treatment, your horse will receive a second injection of 100 million MSCs. At this time, your horse will be clinically examined and about 2/3 of a cup (60 mL) of blood will be collected.
  • Two weeks after the second round of injections, we will need to see examine your horse again. At this time, your horse will be clinically examined and about 1 tablespoon (10mL) of blood will be collected.

Benefits: The study will pay for costs associated with the ophthalmic examinations and interpretation, fat harvest and MSC expansion, and consecutive visits and therapy will be paid by the study. You (the owner) are responsible for treatments associated with any side effects incurred by your horse’s participation in the study.

We cannot promise any benefits to your horse or other animals from your taking part in this clinical trial; however, possible benefits include the potential of your horse achieving a state of remission without the use of long-term cyclosporine therapy Moreover, this study may help us to further target specific use of MSCs for other horses that suffer from ERU.

Owner Responsibilities: You will be required to bring your horse to the VMTH once for fat collection and twice for stem cell therapy. The ten horses comprising this study are client owned and will be returned to their owners two weeks after the 2nd injection. The animals will be examined every three months for up to 18 months following the study.

Ocular Squamous Cell Carcinoma: Understanding the Genetics in Haflinger, Beligan, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses

Title: Genetic Investigation of Ocular Squamous Cell Carcinoma in Haflinger, Belgian, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses

Purpose: Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) is one of the most common forms of cancer to affect the eye in horses, frequently occurring at the limbus, where the clear cornea meets the white of the eye, or on the nictitating membrane, also known as the third eyelid.  This type of eye cancer affects Haflingers, Belgians, Percherons, Appaloosas, and Arabians among others and the objective of this study is to determine the role genetics plays in ocular squamous cell carcinoma in these breeds.  This study is designed to determine the incidence of SCC in the listed breeds, to determine the modes of inheritance and identify DNA variants that put horses at risk for this cancer. 

Contact: Drs. Mary Lassaline (lasutter@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-0290), Rebecca Bellone (rbellone@ucdavis.edu or 530-752-9299), or Kelly Knickelbein (kknickelbein@ucdavis.edu or 530-718-8359)

Participation Requirements: Haflinger, Belgian, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses with confirmed ocular SCC (confirmed by pathology), or horses that have not been diagnosed with ocular SCC that are at least 13 years old.  Horses that are suspicious for ocular SCC are invited to participate, but confirmation would be required prior to inclusion in the study.

Initial Evaluation for Participation: Any horse with confirmed ocular SCC does not need to be evaluated in person to participate.  Participation for horses with confirmed ocular SCC involves providing (1) a copy of a pathology report confirming ocular SCC, (2) the horse’s registered name for pedigree analysis, and (3) a blood or hair sample.  Horses that have not had ocular SCC and are at least 13 years old will need to be examined by a boarded veterinary ophthalmologist to confirm that they do not have ocular SCC.  This may be done at UC-Davis VMTH or elsewhere.  

Procedures:

  • Participation in this clinical trial, which could last between 15 minutes to one hour, will include discussion of the horse’s medical history, documentation on known pedigree information, examination of the horse’s eyes by a veterinary ophthalmologist, photography of the horse to document coat color and any abnormalities found in the eyes, and collection of hair samples from the horse’s mane. 
    • Examination of a horse’s eyes is similar to examination of a person’s eyes, with lights and magnifying lenses shone into the eyes to see if they are normal, or if any signs suspicious for ocular SCC are present. 
    • For some horses, a blood sample may be collected from the jugular vein, and hair samples may be collected from the mane. This is similar to pulling the mane for show but only pulling a very small sample of about 50 hairs. This blood and hair would be used to isolate DNA for genetic studies to help understand which genes may be involved in the development of ocular SCC. 
  • Follow up phone calls or emails may be necessary if any questions about the horse’s medical history arise after the examination. 
  • If any horse objects to having their eyes examined or to having blood taken or mane hair pulled, these procedures would not be performed.

Benefits: If you are selected to participate in the study, the study will cover the costs associated with eye examination, blood collection, and mane pulling; however, if a presumptive diagnosis of SCC is made for your horse, any further diagnostics or therapy associated with the diagnosis of SCC will be your responsibility.

We cannot promise any benefits to your horse or other animals from your taking part in this clinical trial; however, possible benefits include lowering the incidence of this common eye cancer in Haflinger, Belgian, Percheron, Appaloosa, and Arabian Horses, helping breeders to make informed mating decisions, and better prediction of the risk of developing disease for earlier diagnosis and treatment.  

Owner Responsibilities: Financially, you will be responsible for covering any costs associated with injuries sustained while participating in this trial and any costs associated with follow up of your animal at VMTH for assessment.

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Orthopedic Surgery & Lameness

Tendon & Ligament Injuries: Assessing a Stem Cell Therapy

Title: Comparison of single versus multiple dose allogeneic MSC for treatment of tendon and ligament disorders in horses

Purpose of Study: Tendon and ligament injuries are a common cause of lameness in horses frequently associated with high expenses and failure to return to a previous level of performance. Conventional treatment regimens have various outcomes and mostly result in the formation of non-elastic scar tissue which plays a major role in the high incidence of recurrence. Scar tissue cannot be as functional as tendon and ligament tissue and the goal for an efficacious treatment is therefore the development of methods of regenerating the tissue and lessening the amount of scar tissue formation. The purpose of this study is to assess stem cell therapy as a potential treatment for tendon and ligament injuries. The clinical use of stem cells is still in its early stages, and determination of the ideal dose to administer these cells is worth further investigation.

Contact: Please make an appointment with Dr. Galuppo by calling (530) 752-0290.

Participation Requirements: Horses diagnosed with an injury involving a tendon or ligament

Initial Evaluation for Participation: Please have your veterinarian contact Dr. Galuppo to see if your horse will qualify

Procedures: If you agree to let your horse participate in this study, the following will happen:

  • A brief lameness exam
  • An ultrasound exam or an MRI before and after completion of the injections based on the location of the lesion
  • Stem cell injections (either a single dose or 1-2 doses every two weeks for up to 3 treatments) under sedation
  • Rehabilitation and reevaluation every 60-90 days (there may be another injection during rehabilitation if there is increase in lameness and signs of worsening tendonitis or desmitis)

Depending on the degree and stage of the injury, a UC Davis veterinarian will either request that you to bring your horse to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) or a UC Davis veterinarian from the research team will go to your location and administer the stem cells treatment.

Benefits: Results from this study may help to determine an ideal dose of MSCs for horses suffering from tendon or ligament lesions.

Owner Responsibilities:If you allow your horse to participate in this study, you will be responsible for bringing the horse to the clinic or agreed upon location for the injections, and informing the UC Davis researchers if your horse of any adverse effects for the 10 days following each injection. Additionally, you will be responsible for covering all charges related to stem cell therapy, follow up, and any adverse events should they occur.

Tendonitis & Desmitis: Assessing a Stem Cell Therapy

Title: Comparison of low dose (10 million) and high dose (50 million) autologous mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of tendonitis and desmitis in horses

Purpose of Study: Tendon and ligament injuries are a common cause of lameness in horses frequently associated with high expenses and failure to return to a previous level of performance. Conventional treatment regimens have various outcomes and mostly result in the formation of non-elastic scar tissue which plays a major role in the high incidence of recurrence. Scar tissue cannot be as functional as tendon and ligament tissue and the goal for an efficacious treatment is therefore the development of methods of regenerating the tissue and lessening the amount of scar tissue formation. The purpose of this study is to assess stem cell therapy as a potential treatment for tendonitis and desmitis. The clinical use of stem cells is still in its early stages, and determination of the ideal dose to administer these cells is worth further investigation.

Contact: Please make an appointment with Dr. Galuppo by calling (530) 752-0290.

Participation Requirements: Horses diagnosed with an injury involving a tendon or ligament

Initial Evaluation for Participation: Please have your veterinarian contact Dr. Galuppo to see if your horse will qualify

Procedures: If you agree to let your horse participate in this study, the following will happen:

  • A brief lameness exam
  • An ultrasound exam or an Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scan before and after completion of the injections based on the location of the lesion
  • Collection of fat (adipose) tissue if your horse is older than 15 years or bone marrow if your horse is younger than 15years
  • 3 injections (2-4 weeks apart) of either a high or low dose of stem cells while under sedation
    • An additional intra-arterial stem cell injection may be necessary if there is increase in lameness and signs of worsening tendonitis or desmitis during the rehabilitation process

Depending on the degree and stage of the injury, a UC Davis veterinarian will either request that you to bring your horse to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) or a UC Davis veterinarian from the research team will go to your location and administer the stem cells treatment.

Benefits: Results from this study may help to the determine an ideal route of administration of MSCs in horses suffering from tendon or ligament lesions.

Owner Responsibilities: If you allow your horse to participate in this study, you will be responsible for covering all charges related to stem cell therapy and follow-up, bringing your horse to the clinic or agreed upon location for the injections, and informing the UC Davis researchers if your horse of any adverse effects for the 10 days following each injection.

Intra-articular Lesions: Assessing a Stem Cell Therapy

Title: Comparison of high (30 million) and low (10 million) autologous mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of intra-articular lesions in horses

Purpose of Study: Intra articular disorders in horses remain as a major source of lameness and decrease performance. Conventional treatments are often long and expensive with less than optimal results and failure to return to a previous level of performance in the majority of cases. When intra articular lesions heal, scar tissue cannot be as functional as the original tissues, therefore the development of methods for regenerating tissue is our goal for an efficacious treatment. The purpose of this study is to assess stem cell therapy as a potential treatment for intra-articular lesions. The clinical use of stem cells is still in its early stages, and determination of the ideal dose to administer these cells is worth further investigation.

Contact: Please make an appointment with Dr. Galuppo by calling (530) 752-0290.

Participation Requirements: Horses diagnosed with intra-articular lesions

Initial Evaluation for Participation: Please have your veterinarian contact Dr. Galuppo to see if your horse will qualify

Procedures: If you agree to let your horse participate in this study, the following will happen:

  • A brief lameness exam
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of the affected joint before first injection, immediately following the injections and then six months after completion of the injections.
  • Joint fluid collection from the affected joint
  • Collection of fat (adipose) tissue if your horse is older than 15 years or bone marrow if your horse is younger than 15years.
  • Injection of either a high or low dose of stem cells into the affected joint while under sedation

Depending on the degree and stage of the injury, a UC Davis veterinarian will either request that you to bring your horse to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) or a UC Davis veterinarian from the research team will go to your location and administer the stem cells treatment.

Benefits: If you agree to participate in this study, we offer up to 30% discount on diagnostic studies (MRI, Ultrasound, and Laboratory services) associated with the administration of MSCs in your horse.

Owner Responsibilities:If you allow your horse to participate in this study, you will be responsible for bringing the horse to the clinic or agreed upon location for the injections, and informing the UC Davis researchers if your horse of any adverse effects for the 10 days following each injection.

Laminitis: Assessing a Stem Cell Therapy

Title: Comparison of routes of administration for allogeneic umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cells for treatment of laminitis in horses

Purpose of Study: Degenerative disorders of the equine foot, such as laminitis are a major cause of foot lameness in horses. Unfortunately, laminitis is not only a devastating and expensive disease to treat, but there is also no true cure for the disease. Stem cell therapy is currently being examined at as a potential treatment for laminitis based on the ability of stem cells to replicate themselves, regenerate tissue, and repair damaged tissue. The purpose of this study is to assess the best administration method for mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). The clinical use of stem cells is still in its early stages, and determination of the ideal route to administer these cells in horses affected by laminitis is worth further investigation.

Contact: Please make an appointment with Dr. Galuppo by calling (530) 752-0290.

Participation Requirements: Horses diagnosed with laminitis

Initial Evaluation for Participation: Please have your veterinarian contact Dr. Galuppo to see if your horse will qualify.

Procedures: If you agree to let your horse participate in this study, the following will happen:

  • A brief lameness exam
  • Three stem cell injections (2-3 weeks apart) into one of three areas – the median artery of the affected leg (s), the digital palmar vein or the subcutaneous tissues of the coronary band – while under sedation

Depending on the degree and stage of the injury, a UC Davis veterinarian will either request that you to bring your horse to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) or a UC Davis veterinarian from the research team will go to your location and administer the stem cells treatment.

Benefits: If you agree to participate in this study, we offer up to 30% discount on diagnostic studies (MRI, Ultrasound, and Laboratory services) associated with the administration of MSCs in your horse.

Results from this study may help to the determine an ideal route of administration of MSCs in horses suffering from laminitis.

Owner Responsibilities: If you allow your horse to participate in this study, you will be responsible for bringing the horse to the clinic or agreed upon location for the injections, and informing the UC Davis researchers if your horse of any adverse effects for the 10 days following each injection.

If you cannot find what you are looking for, please email us or call (530) 752-5366.