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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2006 Apr 15;110(3-4):195-206. Epub 2005 Nov 10.

Dynamic changes in circulating leukocytes during the induction of equine laminitis with black walnut extract.

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  • 1The Food Animal Health and Management Program, College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA.


Administration of black walnut heartwood extract (BWHE) via nasogastric tube induces acute laminitis in horses. However, the processes responsible for the development of laminitis, including laminitis induced with BWHE, remain unclear. The results of recent studies indicate that administration of BWHE initiates an inflammatory response in the laminar tissues and that this response may be due to extravasation of activated leukocytes from the circulation. This study examines the effects of BWHE administration on the dynamics of circulating neutrophils and monocytes, and the capacity of blood leukocytes to produce radical oxygen species (ROS) over the time period from administration of BWHE to the development of lameness consistent with Obel grade I laminitis. Individual horses, free of pre-existing musculoskeletal disease, were administered either 6l of BWHE or an equal volume of water at time 0 (T=0). Blood samples were collected prior to dosing and at 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12h after dosing, or until the onset of Obel grade I laminitis. For each sample, total leukocyte counts were determined followed by collection of buffy coats and removal of erythrocytes by hypotonic lysis. Leukocytes were either fixed for flow cytometric assessment of differential counts or maintained in culture to measure endogenous and phorbol ester-induced production of ROS. At each sample time, the number of cells recovered and the flow cytometric differential counts were compared with corresponding total leukocyte counts determined by the Clinical Pathology laboratory. Horses administered BWHE had a significant reduction in circulating leukocytes at 3-4 h relative to values for horses administered the same volume of water. Horses that developed Obel grade I laminitis had a significant reduction in circulating leukocytes when compared to values for horses administered BWHE that did not become lame. Flow cytometric analysis revealed a consistent decrease in the total number of monocytes obtained from horses that developed laminitis. In these same horses, the endogenous level of ROS production was significantly higher at T=0 than for horses that did not become lame. Furthermore, production of ROS by leukocytes from horses that developed laminitis increased significantly and coincided with the decrease in circulating leukocytes. Collectively, these findings support a role for systemic activation of leukocytes and induction of inflammation by BWHE as a factor in the early pathogenesis of acute laminitis. Because laminitis often develops as a sequel to diseases characterized by systemic inflammatory events, activation and emigration of neutrophils and monocytes may be important factors in the early pathogenesis of laminitis in clinical cases.

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