Welcome to The Scoop From the Schools! This is a new "semi-blog" of news written by Dr. Stacey Oke that is meant to keep veterinarians up-to-date on goings-on at their alma maters ("What's the chatter at your alma mater?"). This column will also provide information of interest to veterinarians from equine research institutes.
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Grant Gives Researchers
Room to Explore Genetics of PPID
Veterinary researchers from the University of Minnesota and Oklahoma State University were recently awarded a $60,000 grant from the Morris Animal Foundation. The team will use these funds to continue studying the genetic component of pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID, formerly known as equine Cushing’s disease).
While not generally grouped with genetic conditions typically known to affect horses, whole genome sequencing previously conducted by this group identified “PPID risk alleles.” They believe that one or more of these alleles are associated with an increased risk of PPID.
“There is a known increased risk in Morgan horses as well as some reports of potential familial cases and horses that develop a severe form at a younger age. All of these types of cases can raise support for a genetic component and signify the importance of this research,” said Lauren Hughes, DVM, VMED, a PhD student in the Equine Genetics and Genomics Laboratory, University of Minnesota.
“We will be using a candidate gene analysis approach that will allow us to search through the genetic code of a group of horses, some affected with the disease and some controls, and identify alleles (mutations) that could be associated with an increased risk of development of PPID. These variants will then be validated in a larger horse population,” Hughes said.
Research is already well underway with promising results so far.
“The data generated from this project may allow for the development of a genetic test that determines a horse’s risk of PPID through routine screening,” Hughes relayed.
This is good news for veterinarians facing PPID in the field, as PPID occurs commonly. Current estimates suggest that approximately 15–20% of horses older than 15 years have PPID.
Being able to conduct PPID risk assessment via genetic testing is anticipated by the research to benefit the industry by:
- Allowing primary care veterinarians new ways of conducting more intensive monitoring;
- Developing tests to facilitate early diagnosis that might potentially lead to earlier therapeutic interventions to try to mitigate the consequences of clinical PPID; and
- Improving our understanding of PPID pathophysiology by identifying the genes and alleles (mutations) that are most important in predisposing horses to PPID.
If the researchers sound a bit optimistic, consider this: One of the lead researchers is Molly McCue, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVIM, associate dean for research and professor in the Department of Veterinary Population Medicine at the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine. McCue played a key role in identifying the GYS1 gain-of-function mutation that causes polysaccharide storage myopathy type 1 (PSSM1). We are in good hands!
Kudos to Professor Martin Karup Nielsen!
On April 27, 2021, Dr. Martin Nielsen was promoted to Professor with tenure at the University of Kentucky’s Department of Veterinary Science. In a letter penned by Dr. David Horohov, director of the prestigious Maxwell H. Gluck Research Center, this “important milestone” was a result of Nielsen having distinguished himself as “an internationally recognized expert in equine parasitology.”
Some of Nielsen’s accolades (which really only scratch the surface of what he has achieved) over the past decade at the Gluck Equine Research Center include:
- Publishing over 100 scientific peer-reviewed research articles;
- Recipient of a Winnie Award for best educational film of the 2020 EQUUUS Film and Arts Fest for his series, The Parasite Journey of The Horse; and
- Recipient of a Winnie Award for best educational film of the 2019 EQUUUS Film and Arts Fest for his series, Deworm Debunk.
Moving forward, Nielsen said his work’s focus will remain unchanged: “I will be continuing my work with educating myself and anyone interested about equine parasitology.”
According to a Facebook post announcing his promotion, one of Nielsen’s many concerns surrounds his attire, leaving him wondering if his usual jeans and T-shirts will still be acceptable. Given his amazing contributions to this field, I am sure Nielsen could pull off a tutu with mukluks if he so desired.
Promotion for University Professor James N. Moore
Not to be outdone by Nielsen, James N. Moore, DVM, PhD, DACVS, was named University Professor in early April at the University of Georgia. According to UGAToday, University Professor is a "title bestowed on those who have had a significant impact on the university in addition to fulfilling their regular academic responsibilities."
This University Professorship recognizes "individuals with outstanding records of teaching, scholarship and service whose actions as change-agents have improved the quality with which the university serves its missions."
Moore, a Professor in the Department of Large Animal Medicine at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine, is world-renowned for his research in endotoxemia. He has authored more than 140 peer-reviewed articles and is a "recognized innovator of new instructional tools in veterinary medicine."
Moore also played an integral role in developing electronic resources to help veterinary students learn anatomy and physiology by "turning complex subjects from textbooks into 3D models and animations."
Read more about Professor Moore's distinguished career here.
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Vet schools and equine research institutes that have information for consideration to be included in The Scoop From the Schools can email EquiManagement publisher Kimberly S. Brown.