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Actress Betty White Contributes to Morris Animal Foundation Equine Health Initiative

Denver, Colorado: A generous donation contributed by actress Betty White jumpstarts Morris Animal Foundation’s Equine Health Initiative. The Foundation, based in Denver, Colorado, is a non-profit organization that funds humane animal health studies to advance veterinary medicine.

“I wanted to kick off this study for horses,” said Ms. White, a world-renowned actress who has been the iconic spokesperson for Morris Animal Foundation for 40 years and served as its president for three years. “It’s important that we contribute to this critical research project. Horses have been our trusted companions for so many years, and I truly want to support humane studies that will help better their lives.”

Morris Animal Foundation’s Equine Health Initiative will support multi-year equine research projects providing sustained funding, the first of which will be the five-year Equine Consortium for Genetic Research, which will allow scientists to study genetic processes that contribute to equine diseases that impact reproduction, fertility, performance, and developmental and acquired orthopedic disorders.

“Owners, breeders and veterinarians are increasingly aware that genetic factors have a major impact on the health and well-being of horses,” commented Deborah Tatum, director for the Morris Animal Foundation’s Equine Health Initiative. “Through these studies we hope to minimize the prevalence of several highly heritable diseases, and develop targeted therapies for otherwise unresponsive conditions.”

Researchers will use sequenced horse genome information to study and identify those genes and mutations that contribute to heritable diseases, such as:

• Musculoskeletal disease

• Laminitis

• Recurrent airway obstruction

• Bone disease

These categories include naturally-occurring disorders due to genes of major effect, such as:

• Polysaccaride Storage Myopathy (PSSM)

• Recurrent Exertional Rhabdomyolysis (RER, tying-up)

• Hereditary Equine Regional Dermal Asthenia (HERDA)

• Recurrent Airway Obstruction (RAO, heaves)

• Osteochondrosis Dessicans (OCD)

• Pasture Laminitis

• Sarcoids

Dr. Jim Mickelson, program director for the Equine Consortium for Genetic Research project and professor at the University of Minnesota, added: “This project will benefit the entire horse industry, offer new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches to reduce animal suffering, and promote equine health and welfare. We will be able to do for the horse what we already can do for human and canine research.”


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