This experiment is part of the Horse Nation Equine Research Challenge Challenge Grant. Browse more projects

Hormone Therapy: Suppressing your mares estrous, or suppressing her immune system?

Raised of $4,500 Goal
Ended on 6/18/18
Campaign Ended
  • $781
  • 18%
  • Finished
    on 6/18/18

About This Project

As horse owners, we often use hormones to modify what we consider "poor behavior" in our animals, most commonly with altrenogest (as in Regu-Mate®) or medroxyprogesterone acetate (Depo-Provera®). In humans, it is well known that synthetic progestins suppress the immune system, leading to an increased risk of diseases like HIV and herpes. But do these hormones have similar effects in our horses? We need to find out.

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What is the context of this research?

The behavior of horses is often manipulated with hormone therapy; specifically in the administration of synthetic progestins such as altrenogest (as in Regu-Mate®) or medroxyprogesterone acetate (MPA; Depo-Provera®). In humans, it is known that synthetic progestins (like MPA) suppress the immune system, leading to an increased risk of diseases such HIV and the flu. Whether or not these hormones also increase our horses risk of disease has yet to be determined.

Recently, we found that altrenogest changed the immune system of the mare, but we are uncertain as to how it did this, or what effect it may have on the horses ability to fight infection. We need to answer these questions in order to help owners and practitioners make informed decisions for their horses.

What is the significance of this project?

It is believed that 1 in 3 mares will be given a hormone therapy at some point in her life. So in order to improve the overall health of our sport horses, broodmares, and racehorses, it is imperative that we understand the effects of these medications in other parts of the body. Data from our lab indicates that altrenogest does have an affect on the immune system, but we have not studied MPA, or the receptors and pathways through which they both function. Improved knowledge on how they work and the effects that they have will lead to management changes that improve the general health of our horses.

What are the goals of the project?

Our goal is to measure the effects of various progestins on the immune system of horses. All of our horses are located on the University of Kentucky's North Farm and the study will be conducted in the summer of 2018. We plan to get immune cells from at least 10 horses of mixed breed, size, and age. We will isolate the cells from these horses, and assess them for their ability to produce infection-fighting molecules. In addition, we will look at how these progesterone-like drugs activate the cells. Long term, we hope see if these synthetic progestins do increase the risk of various diseases in the horse, including placentitis and leptospirosis, or even how they respond to vaccines.


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While the Gluck Equine Research Center has top-notch facilities, funding is needed for us to both utilize them and to take care of the horses. It will cost us $1,500 to utilize our amazing research horses for the month. We will need to purchase the laboratory-grade steroids and other molecules, which will cost $500. We plan to do two different lab techniques on these cells: qPCR and flow cytometry, and we estimate that it will cost $2,500 to perform both of these.

Endorsed by

I am excited to see clinically relevant research being done on this topic. Dr.Fedorka's on farm experience makes her the best person to do this research!
Hormone therapy is used extensively in our performance horses and breeding stock; as such, it's important to know what side effects might arise from their use. Dr. Carleigh Fedorka has a strong background in both reproduction and immunology and should do a great job with this project.

Project Timeline

June 1st: Summer student arrives from Lincoln Memorial University's College of Veterinary medicine.

June 1st-July 15th: Collect cells from horses. Begin laboratory work (flow cytometry).

July 15th-August 1st: Continue laboratory work (qPCR).

August 1st-August 15th: Data analyzed with statistics, manuscript prepared.

May 10, 2018

Project Launched

Jul 15, 2018

Finish Collection of Cells

Aug 01, 2018

Finish Laboratory Work

Aug 15, 2018

Finish Data Analysis

Meet the Team

Carleigh Fedorka
Carleigh Fedorka
Postdoctoral Scholar


University of Kentucky
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Carleigh Fedorka

Carleigh Fedorka holds a Ph.D. in Veterinary Science from the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center, with a specific focus on Reproductive Immunology.

A Pennsylvania native, she moved to Kentucky after graduating from St. Lawrence University and has worked closely in all aspects of both the thoroughbred and sport horse industries. She spends her free time eventing as well as training, selling, and rehoming OTTBs.

Project Backers

  • 13Backers
  • 18%Funded
  • $781Total Donations
  • $60.08Average Donation
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