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New Research on Arthritis in HorsesBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · November 10, 2016

The pain associated with osteoarthritis (OA)—the progressive, debilitating degeneration of articular cartilage in joints—remains problematic for many horses. As a result, a once-steady steed becomes increasingly reluctant to move, less able to perform physical feats that were at one time easy and, in too many cases, prematurely retired.

Recognizing the need for new options for managing the crippling pain caused by OA, a Danish group of researchers recently explored a novel medium for easing joint pain. According to the researchers, polyacrylamide hydrogel—a nontoxic, nondegradable synthetic— supports cellular growth and augments tissues via water exchange. The gel has been used for years to enhance soft-tissue integrity in human medicine. As a “bulking agent,” the gel artificially inflates submucosal tissues. Bulking the bladder neck with polyacrylamide hydrogel, for example, improves incontinence in humans.

In their study*, Christensen and coworkers injected 2 mL of the gel into 18 horses diagnosed with OA. The horse were followed for two years, at which time it was found that the gel had formed a layer under the synovial tissue lining the joint and facing the joint cavity. The researchers found that after only one or two injections, the gel formed a stable, long-lasting subsynovial layer that contained thin strands of connective tissue.

“Further studies to explore potential effects on synovial inflammation and pain are warranted,” the researchers concluded.

“The results of this study are indeed very exciting and offer a potentially novel method of approaching OA to help curtail pain due to inflammation,” noted Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., a nutritionist with Kentucky Equine Research (KER). “Until this product is available, we are reliant on a multi-modal treatment approach, which includes high-quality joint supplements.”

KER offers several products to support joint health in horses, including KER•FlexSynovate HA, and EO•3, an omega-3 product. Australians should look for these research-proven products.

*Christensen, L., L. Camitz, K.E. Illigen, et al. 2016. Synovial incorporation of polyacrylamide hydrogel after injection into normal and osteoarthritic animal joints. Osteoarthritis and Cartilage. 24(11):1999-2002.