Two OVC researchers are among the recipients to share in more than $1.2 million in grants this year from the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation. Drs. Dean Betts and Keith Betteridge, Biomedical Sciences, were among 14 scientists to receive grants for new projects and 10 who received funding for second-year proposals. Betteridge is investigating ways to improve the success rate of early pregnancies in mares, while Betts is examining the use of umbilical cord blood stem cells in the treatment of damaged cartilage.
MECHANISMS OF MAINTENANCE OF EARLY PREGNANCY Dr. Keith Betteridge
This project addresses the frequent scenario of a mare being diagnosed as pregnant soon after breeding, but quickly losing the pregnancy. The three-week stage has been identified as the point when the conceptus (embryo and associated tissues and fluids) has to become immobilized at the position in the uterus where the placenta will develop. The research is aimed at understanding the processes by which this either occurs, and the pregnancy continues, or fails to occur successfully. This research team utilizes various physiologic, biochemical, proteomic, and molecular methods to identify changes in proteins, steroid hormones, and other molecules that are altered during the critical phase: "Several distinct differences between normal and failing pregnancies have already" been identified. Continuing understanding from this project could lead to diagnostic tests of the reproductive health of mares as well as treatments that improve the success rate of early pregnancies.
CORD BLOOD STEM CELLS: FROM FARM TO POINT OF CARE Dr. Dean Betts
This is another project seeking to overcome the problem of stem cells being unsuccessful so far as antidote to cartilage lesions. Research in human medicine indicates that umbilical cord cells are more effective than stems cells from fat or bone marrow. The researchers have already isolated umbilical cord blood in horses and have "demonstrated their potential to form bone, cartilage, and fat in petri dishes." This project will continue the learning curve, not only in use of cord stem cells in the horse from which they were harvested, but also allogenic stem cell therapies (use in horses other than the donor). As stated by Dr. Betts, "This knowledge has the potential to greatly enhance clinicians' ability to make rational decisions regarding the choice of stem cell to use in specific situations."
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