Dr. Verena K. Affolter, Dr. Hilde EV De Dock and Dr. Gregeory L. Ferraro initiated the studies in Chronic progressive lymphedema in draft horses in Davis , in 2001. With the assistance of the Center for Equine Health, the Leonard X. Bosack, Bette M. Kruger Foundation, the Ayrshire Farm in Virginia, the Belgian National Stud Book, Several United States Draft Horse Breeder Associations and private horse breeders have supported the research.
Several different investigative techniques have been evaluated in an attempt to find the underlying cause of this serious and debilitating disease. These researchers utilized histopathologic and radiographic imaging techniques to examine the skin, blood and lymph flow of the distal limbs of normal and affected draft horses. Detailed examinations of tissues from pathological specimens and skin biopsies were conducted using several different methodologies in an attempt to define and delineate the basic pathogenic features of the condition. After Dr. De Cock's return to Belgium , the research has been continued between the University of Gent (Dr. R. Ducatelle, Dr. L Van Brantegem) and Uniersity of Antwerp (Dr. De Cock) in Belgium and UC Davis.
CPL is primarily a disease of insufficient lymphatic transport. Marked changes in the elastin component in the skin have been noted. Moreover, affected horses present with increased degradation of elastin. Elastin plays a crucial role in the appropriate function of lymph transportation and the changes observed could explain the chronic progressive disease in affected horses. With increased edema and fibrosis, the blood circulation in the distal legs is impaired, which increases the risk of recurrent secondary infections with bacteria and parasites.
The current research team at UC Davis includes Dr. VK Affolter, Dr. DL Bannasch, Amy Young and Dr. GL Ferraro. The current research is mostly focusing on identifying possible genetic factors involved in the disease. The genetic studies are performed under the supervision of
Dr. Bannasch. In Belgium additional genetic studies will be conducted at Universiteit Leuven.
Additional studies have been focusing on improvement of the clinical management of the affected horses, including rigorous control of mite infections, the usage of compression bandages
(UC Davis) and surgical debulking of nodular lesions associated with subsequent usage of compression bandages.