Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Veterinary Medicine will pursue 10 new research projects with support from the school’s Companion Animal Fund Grant Program. In 2022, the program distributed more than $137,000 in grants for studies exploring a wide range of topics, from antibiotic uptake in a commonly bred species of freshwater turtle to the pathological pathology of laryngeal paralysis. in dogs to improving anesthesia in horses.
LaTasha Crawford, an assistant professor in the School of Veterinary Medicine specializing in neuroscience, is leading one of the studies selected for the grant program and funded by the Equine Health Fund. Broadly, his research aims to understand how different diseases affect the senses of touch and pain. In collaboration with Colorado State University (CSU) College of Veterinary Medicine, the research project will examine unique sensory inflammation of neurons in horses.
CSU faculty approached Crawford, familiar with his lab’s investigations of nerve and pain injury, to team up to better understand a disease seen in equine patients. About eight years ago, several horses presented to the CSU Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital with behavioral issues. Horses exhibited dangerous behaviors when ridden or touched in a certain way.
“It turned out to be neck and back pain,” Crawford says. “Unfortunately many of the medications used failed to resolve the problem, so the owners opted to euthanize the horses.”
When autopsiing these horses, pathologists couldn’t pinpoint a clear cause for the pain until they took a deep look at the sensory neurons, which detect pain. These neurons, known as sensory ganglia, are found in clusters all along each side of the spine. Lymph nodes are not routinely checked during autopsies. The researchers found that the pain was associated with the disease ‘ganglionitis’, which targets sensory nerve cells.
“It wasn’t until they started looking at these structures that they started understanding pain,” Crawford says.
This research will shed light on an often overlooked and unknown area of the nervous system – discoveries that could benefit both veterinary and human medicine.
“There is an unmet clinical need to better understand the causes of pain. Studies like this will help us understand how we can improve, treat, and maybe even prevent pain.
“We don’t know as much about the sensory ganglia as we should,” Crawford says. “We know that there is pain associated with ganglionitis syndrome and the inflammation affects the lymph nodes. But we don’t have a good idea of what that means for the patient.
By better understanding the source of these horses’ pain and the causes of the disease, researchers and clinicians can better target treatment, find potential therapies and avoid euthanasia. Even more, this research sheds light on pain in its entirety, both animal and human.
“We’re trying to find connections between what we see in tissues and in clinical diagnoses and pain in the patient,” Crawford says. “There’s a lot of chronic pain that people go through without proper treatment.”
“There is an unmet clinical need to better understand the causes of pain,” she continues. “Studies like this will help us understand how we can improve, treat, and perhaps even prevent pain.”
The Companion Animal Grant Program aims to support research that improves and improves the care of any companion animal. The program is funded by donations from veterinary medical clinics with ties to the school and individual donors. Donations to the Companion Animal Fund, Feline Health Fund, Equine Health Fund and other donations support the Companion Animal Fund Grant Program.
See all 2022 research projects.
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