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Coleman Laboratory


Recurrent Laryngeal Neuropathy

Companion animals are being increasingly appreciated as useful animal models of human diseases, as many naturally occurring animal diseases resemble diseases in people. Traditionally, laboratory rodents have been used as disease models and they have the advantages of relatively short life span, rapid breeding cycles and availability of techniques to allow gene manipulations. The shortcomings when comparing a rodent to a human include the size, anatomy, living environment and immunological response to infection. Hence studying large animals when they develop a disease naturally can offer an intermediary stage when translating experimental models into human clinical practice. Cases similar to many human neurological disorders naturally exist in large animals making them a useful tool for investigating early pathological events that can be used to understand the mechanism of the disease and/or targets for possible therapeutic interventions. This is very hard to do in human patients.

Recurrent laryngeal neuropathy (also known as ‘roaring’ because of the noise made by affected horses), the longest motor nerve in the horse degenerates leading to paralysis of the muscles that control air intake into the lungs. We are trying to find out what happens and how this can be stopped, knowledge that could benefit both horses and people with motor neuron disorders.

The findings of this study could be relevant to similar nerve disease in humans that affect the motor nerves to the feet, which are the longest nerves in the human body.