What is fracture?

One in ten horses suffer a fracture during training and fracture is the number one reason horses are put to sleep on the racecourse.

Technologies and treatments exist to treat fractures, however many injuries are catastrophic and the horse cannot be saved. Keeping a horse still for a long period of time in order for the bone to heal is incredibly stressful for the animal, and ultimately a huge risk to its life. That’s why we’re researching ways to prevent fracture from occurring in the first place…

Dr Debbie Guest takes a DNA cheek swab sample from a horse as part of our fracture research

Researching fracture in racehorses

Fractures caused by bone overloading, as opposed to direct trauma, are common in racing Thoroughbreds. Our research has shown that, alongside environmental factors, some racehorses have an increased genetic risk of fracture through bone overloading. We’re now working to develop a DNA test to identify horses which have a higher genetic risk of fracture. We hope the DNA test will be used in the selection of horses, to breed or train, that have a lower risk of fracture, preventing any unnecessary injuries or suffering.

Alongside this, using our stem cell expertise, we are creating bone cells from equine induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) in the laboratory. This is to help us better understand how the bones of high risk horses are affected, and from that develop new tools to protect them from fatal fractures.

We want to protect our equine athletes from fracture. By looking at genetic risk, we believe we could prevent this type of injury in horses. This would be a huge step forward in equine welfare and wellbeing.

Dr Debbie Guest
Dr Debbie Guest, Head of Stem Cell Research

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Research lead

Dr Debbie Guest

Dr Debbie Guest

Head of Stem Cell Research

Debbie’s research aims to utilise stem cells in veterinary medicine both for therapeutic applications and as a tool to study inherited diseases.

Read Dr Debbie Guest's bio