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What's going on in Research?

DSLD/ESPA has been found in equines for many years, yet diagnosis has been limited.

Jeanette Mero, DVM, did an in-depth study of DSLD/ESPA horses and developed the Diagnostic Protocol used today to confirm DSLD/ESPA by ultrasound.  Dr Mero has had two research papers published with the AAEP on her work with DSLD/ESPA in the Peruvian Paso and other breeds. (link to papers?)

Research conducted at University of GA (UGA)  by Dr Halper confirmed that Dr Mero's Diagnostic Protocol is a reliable form of diagnosis as confirmed by necropsy at UGA.  What makes the new necropsy findings unique is this is disease is found not only in the suspensory ligament, but affects the connective tissue systemically. 

Dr Halper is researching biochemical aspects of the disease and has concluded that Equine Systemic Proteoglycan Accumulation (ESPA) is a better term to describe the disease than the original Degenerative Suspensory Ligament Desmitis (DSLD).  Her necropsy findings have shown that all ligaments and tendons in all limbs are affected, including the patella and the nuchal ligament.  ESPA has also been found in the aorta and the eyes.  Some cases are worse in the tendons than ligaments at necropsy.

All breeds affected have shown the same cellular changes to the connective tissue. Some cases have shown the liver to have a high accumulation of iron. Some cases have shown lung lesions. One case, with loose skin, showed the skin to be almost totally absent of elastin.  At this time more research needs to be done to understand the disease and how all the findings relate including liver, lung and skin results.

It is believed this is a genetic disease, and the genetic aspect is being studied by Dr Gus Cothran.  He has studied over 200 samples from affected horses and has found a number of markers to date which he is following up.

Related Studies

NEWS:  Dr Halper has published her research findings.  Click here for the abstract.  To read the entire paper, please click here.  (requires Adobe Reader)

Dr Halper is available for biopsy tissue diagnosis.  Please click on the appropriate link for instructions and prices. 
--Click here for post-mortem instructions and prices.
--Click here for instructions to take nuchal ligament sample from live horse.


Eleanor Kellon, VMD, is conducting an iron/ferritin study of DSLD/ESPA horses since so many are diagnosed with high iron or iron overload.
Please contact Dr Kellon before sending blood sample to University of KS for testing.  Click here for Iron Submission Form.


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