DSLD/ESPA    Research Fundraising

DSLD/ESPA: the lethal disease all horse owners should know about, we can stop it together!

What is DSLD?

DSLD is a degenerative musculoskeletal disease generally leading to persistent, INCURABLE lameness and often euthanasia of affected horses. The disease is most often characterized by the slow onset of bilateral or quadrilateral lameness distinct from any trauma or performance related injury.

Dropped fetlocks is only a symptom. The disease affects the entire horse, it is a systemic disorder that involves connective tissue and ORGANS. Not only suspensory ligaments but other if not all tendons and ligaments, and other organs that contain a lot of connective tissue (e.g., coronary arteries, aorta) are affected by DSLD as well. It is a disease which affects the whole horse. The disease is similar to the Ehlers? Danlos syndrome humans can suffer from.

Recent studies suggest the possibility of the heritable nature of the syndrome as it has the tendency to run in families. DSLD/ESPA can be found in horses of ALL ages.

Originally described in Peruvian Pasos, several studies and experience of many veterinarians and horse breeders highlight the impact of the disease across a range of breeds, including but not limited to the Quarter Horse, Arabians, Saddlebreds, Standardbreds, Thoroughbreds and European Warmbloods (Pryor et al, 1981; Young, 1993, Halper and Buchanan, unpublished data). According to Wikipedia DSLD has been found in many horse breeds, including Arabians, Thoroughbreds, American Quarter Horses, Morgans, Paso Finos, American Saddlebreds, several breeds of warmblood, Appaloosas, Friesians, Missouri Fox Trotters, Tennessee Walkers, Paints, National Show Horses, and Mustangs, as well as crossbreds and mules.

Symptoms of DSLD/ESPA besides the dropped fetlocks are:

What is the goal of the Fundraising?

To find a reliable test to diagnose and identify the disease before symtoms appears. It sounds simple but it is not an easy project, financially and in terms of time and effort. Clinical Professor Gus Cothran (Texas A&M University) and Professor Jaroslava Halper (University of Georgia) are the only two scientists working on the puzzle of DSLD: Presently, no reliable method exists to diagnose DSLD in asymptomatic horses or to treat horses once diagnosed. Symptoms appear most commonly in mature horses (7/8y) and, often times, after diseased genes are passed on to progeny. An eventual test for DSLD would allow breeders to reduce ? potentially eliminate ? the transmission of this debilitating disease to future generations.

Our ambitious project should help to solve the mystery of DSLD:

Jaroslava Halper, MD, PhD, DABP

Professor at The University of Georgia, and her team have found DSLD is a systemic disease characterized by the accumulation of proteoglycans and the presence of at least one abnormal proteoglycan, so called decorin. Proteoglycans regulate the assembly and the composition of connective tissues. The problem with DSLD/ESPA affected tissue, is the abnormal accumulation of proteoglycans between the fibers of the affected tissues. Elevated or abnormal proteoglycans are probably the result of one or more gene defects.

Proteoglycans is a protein found between cells, and provides structural support. The horses would not survive without it.

Tissues obtained by biopsy from the nuchal (neck) ligament will be anylyzed for DSLD. This method is helpful, but it needs to be refined to increase accuracy and reliability.

P.O. Eric Mueller DVM, Michigan State University; PhD

The University of Georgia indispensable collaborator of Dr. Halper is a Professor of Large Animal Medicine at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. A board certified equine surgeon has joined this endeavor right at its beginning. He diagnoses DSLD through history, physical and ultrasound examinations.

He developed the technique of biopsy of the nuchal ligament and is presently refining actual tendon biopsy technique.

Professor Gus Cothran

Professor Gus Cothran's Animal Genetics Lab is housed in the Veterinary Medical Research building within the grounds of the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences on the campus of Texas A&M University. Dr. Cothran is geneticist, he and his team will run DNA sequencing tests in order to identify a marker.

Currently, three methods are used to diagnose DSLD: physical examination and palpation of suspensory ligaments, ultrasounds of suspensory ligaments, and nuchal ligament biopsies. When used together, these three methods are fairly reliable, but mild cases slip by. These tests do not help to determine whether the horse is a carrier of DSLD or whether it will develop DSLD later in life.

Further research is possible with just a budget of approx. $ 40,000 USD

This amount should cover the needs of Dr. Halper and Dr. Cothran labīs budget: shipping, immunohistochemistry, and RT PCR Tests. Animal use and care (16 horses, include horse care, biopsies and ultrasound, housing) as well as sequencing of a clear DSLD and a control sample and the salary of students workers, bank expenses and money transfer fees. All fundraised money will be distributed to these two Universities: University of Georgia and Texas A&M University "DSLD Research".

Below you will find a summary of DSLD/ESPA and the goal of this fundraising:

Please help us to solve the mistery of DSLD! It is a disease across a range of different breeds.

I want to thank Professor Jaroslava Halper MD, PhD, DABP , P.O. Eric Mueller (DVM, Michigan State University; PhD, The University of Georgia) and Clinical Professor Gus Cothran?s for all your efforts and research work on DSLD.

Campaign is supported by Matilde Brandt, Matildeīs Voice:

My Friesian gelding Batman has been tested for DSLD. He is 12 now, and we have been together for 7,5 years. He means the world to me. When I realized that there was a chance of him suffering from this horrible disease, my heart broke into a thousand pieces. At the moment the future looks brighter for Batman, as he is stable and it seems to be more likely to be an exterior-related problem, and hopefully not DSLD. After living with this dark cloud hanging over me for months, I will do everything in my power to prevent horses and their humans from suffering like this in the future. The worst thing about DSLD/ESPA is the fact that we know so little about it. The feeling of helplessnes. It is draining. DSLD/ESPA is so difficult to diagnose, and a little known disease. I spent six months with sleepless nights, constant worrying, when we tested Batman for DSLD. The first step is to find a genetic marker. For the horses of the future, I hope we can fund this project together. Matilde Brandt, equestrian blogger and Instagrammer, www.matildebrandt.no

Campaign is supported by:


Thank you very much ICHO for implementing the Pay Pal Button for DSLD Research. All funds donated go directly to Dr. Cothran's and Dr. Halperīs DSLD research. Thanks again that we can run our campaign through your help!

Elsa Chang/Caballo Clasico:

https://www.facebook.com/caballoclasico/ and https://www.instagram.com/caballoclasico/

Text Reference and Pictures:
Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis: Identification of genetic Markers /Jaroslava Halper and Gus Cothran)
* http://www.doctorramey.com/degenerative-suspensory-ligament-disease-dsld-espa/
* https://dar.uga.edu/funder/campaigns/equine-degenerative-disorder-research-project/
* http://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1746-6148-2-12
* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Degenerative_suspensory_ligament_desmitis

Elsa Chang,