[October 20, 2010; Kennett Square, PA] – New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, PA announces the opening of the Pennsylvania Racing Commission Equine Facility. The barn, fully funded by the Pennsylvania Racing Commission [PRC], will be used to house horses during research projects. New Bolton Center is the large animal campus of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine, and is contracted by the Racing Commission to conduct research which will improve diagnostic capabilities of substance abuse in horse racing.
The new facility provides four spacious stalls in a climate-controlled environment. “This is particularly important for certain types of research that could be compromised by hot or cold environments, such as respiratory studies, for example,” says Lawrence R. Soma VMD and Professor of Anesthesia at New Bolton Center. The stalls are finished with comfortable footing and easy-to-clean surfaces. Mounted video cameras allow for 24 hour surveillance of horses. The facility also has a wireless heart monitor system that will be used in studies as well.
Dr. Soma, and Cornelius Uboh PhD, Director at Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology and Research Center, are the principle investigators on the PRC’s Research Program. “We are involved in about 10 research studies a year,” explains Dr. Soma. Most of the studies require collection of urine and blood samples which are then analyzed in the lab. Penn Vet researchers have also reviewed thousands of electrocardiograms collected before and following racing to determine usual and unusual changes in cardiac rhythm. Other studies at the facility investigate specific components related to the horse’s respiratory system.
Penn Vet serves as a reference lab for an industry pilot quality assurance program, and has developed the standard operating procedures used for detecting many new illegal drugs and useful therapeutic medications. Research is currently being conducted to determine alternative methods for identification of new emerging compounds that are beneficial when used for the treatment of various disorders, but are illegal when used during human and equine athletic competition. “Many newer medications up-regulate normal processes or genes that regulate these processes,” Says Dr. Soma. “The challenge comes in separating the naturally produced from the administered compound.”
“We’re proud of the important work that is being done here,” says Joan C. Hendricks, VMD, PhD and Dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine. “This research keeps drug testing a step ahead of those who abuse illegal substances in the racing industry. It helps to protect of the integrity of racing, and is the best lab of its kind in the country.”