Horse industry leaders provide support to laboratory

News
Feb 13, 2009
by WLJ
Horse industry leaders provide support to laboratory

Over the last year, two leading forces in the international world of Thoroughbred racing and equine health have donated a total of $1.14 million to Colorado State University (CSU) Professor Gordon Woods’ laboratory to support his research using the horse as a model for understanding human cancer and other age-onset diseases.

Jess Jackson—majority owner of Curlin, 2007 and 2008 Horse of the Year— contributed $1 million to Woods’ research in February 2008. Working with Jackson, the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, founded by Dr. Bill Rood and Dr. Tom Riddle in Lexington, KY, in 1986, last month contributed $140,000 to the Woods laboratory. The $1 million gift from Jackson was formally announced by the donor in August 2008. “My family and I are proud to support Dr. Woods in his research,” said Jackson, who with his wife, Barbara Banke, created the Jackson Curlin for Kids Fund to make a difference in the lives of children where their horse Curlin runs or trains. “Dr. Woods and his team have produced some very exciting results. We need this type of unfiltered, pure research that hopefully will lead to containment and cures of cancer and other catastrophic diseases.”

“It is important for us to give back to a profession that has given so much to us. We’re thrilled that we can not only help horses, but potentially advance human medicine,” said Bill Rood, veterinarian and co-founder of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital.

Woods’ laboratory is part of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and is in the Department of Biomedical Sciences.

Woods is the Alexander Professor in Equine Reproduction in the Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory and Equine Reproduction Laboratory.

Specifically, Woods’ team is conducting research on chemistry at the cellular level to help explain why horses enjoy such a low rate of metastatic cancer and other age-onset diseases, such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease, in comparison to humans. The mortality rate for horses with metastatic cancer is 8 percent and zero percent for prostate cancer.

In looking at the reasons behind that difference, the Woods laboratory honed in on calcium as a regulator of cell activity. It is well established that low calcium within the cell slows cell activity and high levels of calcium within the cell speeds cell activity. The Woods team was the first to determine, however, that equines have a low, intracellular calcium level and is currently studying how to use that as a way to increase their fertility. Studies have shown that humans with age-onset diseases have a higher level of intracellular calcium. — WLJ

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