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Insight: Research Edition
ORC Advances Treatment of Joint Disease/Musculoskeletal Injury
Dr. Wayne McIlwraith is sometimes described as a horse’s best friend. A pioneer in orthopaedic research, many of the advances in technique, technology and treatment made by the Orthopaedic Research Center (ORC) have greatly benefited both the recreational and athletic horse. But Dr. McIlwraith, Director of the ORC and a Professor in the Department of Clinical Sciences, also has a special bond with the horses whose lives he hopes to improve.
For years following an injury sustained while rock climbing, Dr. McIlwraith dealt with joint pain in his left hip. Determined to avoid surgery as long as possible so he could keep climbing, Dr. McIlwraith finally underwent hip replacement surgery last year – but only after finding a doctor who would agree to help him keep climbing (and he still is). His struggle with injury and joint pain has brought home the importance of the work done at the Orthopaedic Research Center, not only from the view-point of helping equine patients, but also the importance of using what is learned to improve the quality of human life.
“It’s pretty incredible when we look at the advances that have been made just in the past 30 years,” said Dr. McIlwraith. “Injuries that would have been career-ending for the equine athlete are now routinely treated, this is especially so since the advent of arthroscopic surgery. But there is still so much we are trying to do, and so many areas for improvement in prevention, diagnosis and treatment. This is a very exciting time to be in this field, when new technologies and innovative techniques are truly making a difference in the lives of horses.”
The ORC is part of the interdisciplinary Musculoskeletal Research Pro-gram which is comprised of three units: the Orthopaedic Research Center; the Orthopaedic Bioengineering Laboratory, focusing on the treatment and prevention of muscular, neuromuscular and skeletal injury and disease; and the Comparative Ruminant Orthopaedic Laboratory where sheep provide a model for researching important orthopaedic problems, including osteoporosis and bone implants for cancer patients
Today, the ORC has four major areas of research:
• Early Diagnosis of Bone and Joint Disease – This includes the development of novel imaging techniques (present and future), body fluid markers and also molecular monitoring. The use of these early diagnostic techniques includes: evaluation of the pathogenisis of bone and joint disease; early detection of disease processes; and monitoring of therapy with the long-term goal of preventing severe arthritis or failure.
• Improvement in the Understanding of the Pathogenesis of Exercise-Induced Traumatic Disease – These investigations use both molecular tools such as reverse transcriptase PCR evaluation of tissues in various stages of disease as well as biomechanical studies in joint modeling. The imaging and biomarker techniques are critical here to try and find ways of diagnosing early microdamage.
• Continued Development of Novel Therapies for Traumatic Synovitis, Capsulitis and Osteoarthritis in the Horse – These include evaluation of biological inhibitors of critical mediators in joint disease including the use of gene therapy techniques.“The focus of our research is, of course, the horse, but one of the great aspects of what we do is that our discoveries are advancing human orthopaedic medicine as well,” said Dr. McIlwraith. “Over the years, we have worked with human orthopaedic researchers and physicians, including those at the Steadman-Hawkins Clinic in Vail, one of the finest orthopaedic centers in the world, and researchers from institutions across the nation and around the world. These are productive and beneficial collaborations that we hope will help to alleviate the suffering of both the equine and human patient.”
For more information on the Orthopaedic Research Center at Colorado State University, visit their Web site at www.equineortho.colostate.edu.