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Gene therapy ‘can cure lameness’ - study
The research team believe this gene therapy could offer a much faster healing time.
Research may also have implications for human medicine 

A ‘promising’ gene therapy could offer faster and more effective treatment for lameness in horses, scientists say.

An international team injected DNA into the tendons and ligaments of horses that were lame as a result of injury. Within two to three weeks, the horses were able to walk and trot, and after two months, they were back to full health, galloping and competing.

The results also showed that the tissue within the limbs had fully recovered. Twelve months after treatment, the horses were completely fit, active and pain free.

Scientists used a combination of the vascular endothelial growth factor gene (VEGF164), to enhance blood vessel growth, and the bone morphogenetic protein 2 (BMP2), which is important for bone and cartilage development.

Both genes were derived from horses and cloned into a single plasmid DNA, which is biologically safe and unlikely to provoke an immune reaction from the body.

The research team believe this gene therapy could offer a much faster healing time, whilst significantly reducing relapse rates. Current medical therapies have a relapse rate of 60 per cent. Even the best regenerative medicine treatments have a 20 per cent relapse rate and take five or six months to work.

Lead author Professor Albert Rizvanov, from Kazan Federal University, said: “Advancing medicine, relieving pain and restoring function were the main aims of this study. We have shown that these are possible and within a much shorter time span than treatments available at the moment.”

In addition, scientists reported that no side effects or adverse reactions were seen in the horses who received treatment.

These findings not only have implications for veterinary medicine, they could also advance treatments for humans. Scientists say this type of therapy could be used in other injuries and situations, ranging from fertility problems to spinal cord injuries.

Dr Catrin Rutland, who led the work at University of Nottingham, said: “This pioneering study advances not only equine medicine but has real implications for how other species and humans are treated for lameness and other disorders in the future. The horses returned to full health after their injuries and did not have any adverse side effects. This is a very exciting medical innovation.”

The next step is to secure funding for a larger trial.

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AWF Student Grant open for submissions

News Story 1
 Applications are open for the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) Student Grant Scheme for innovative research projects designed to impact animal welfare.

Undergraduate and postgraduate students of veterinary science, veterinary nursing, agriculture studies and animal welfare are invited to submit their proposals to undertake research projects next year.

Grants are decided based on the project’s innovation, relevance to topical animal welfare issues and ability to contribute towards raising animal welfare standards. For more information visit animalwelfarefoundation.org.uk.  

Click here for more...
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SPANA film highlights plight of working animals overseas

Animal welfare charity SPANA (The Society for the Protection of Animals Abroad) has teamed up with Brian Blessed and other famous voices to highlight the plight of working animals overseas.

In a new animated film, the celebrities raise awareness by showing the solidarity of the UK's own working animals on strike. A sniffer dog (Brian Blessed), police horse (Peter Egan) and sheepdog (Deborah Meaden) are shown ignoring their duties and protesting in solidarity with animals in developing countries.

SPANA chef executive Geoffrey Dennis said: "We are so grateful to Deborah, Peter and Brian for lending their voices to our new film, and for speaking up for millions of working animals overseas. SPANA believes that a life of work should not mean a life of suffering, and it is only thanks to people’s generosity and support that we can continue our vital work improving the lives of these animals."