Histopathology of insulin-induced laminitis in ponies


  • Asplin's present address is: School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, The University of Nottingham, Sutton Bonington Campus, Leicestershire, UK.

email: cmcgowan@liv.ac.uk


Reasons for performing study: Ponies with laminitis associated with insulin resistance and hyperinsulinaemia lack systemic and/or intestinal inflammatory signs, suggesting a different pathogenesis potentially reflected in differing histopathology.

Objectives: To describe the histological appearance and quantify morphological changes in primary and secondary epidermal lamellae (PEL and SEL) of laminitis lesions from ponies with insulin-induced laminitis.

Methods: Equine hoof lamellar tissue was obtained from 4 control ponies and 5 ponies with laminitis induced following infusion of insulin (1036 ± 55 µU/ml) while maintaining euglycaemia for 55.4 ± 5.5 h. Sections from all 4 hooves were stained and examined by a veterinary pathologist. Measurements of lamellar length (PEL and SEL) were made in mid-dorsal sections of the right forefeet by 2 blinded observers. Immunolabelling for calprotectin was performed using a monoclonal antibody.

Results: No lesions were detected in normal ponies. Lesions detected in ponies with laminitis were variable in severity between ponies. Within ponies, SEL lesions were more severe along the axial region of PEL. Lesions included swelling, disorganisation and abnormal keratinisation of epidermal cells, increased mitotic activity and apoptosis. Separation of basement membranes was minimal. Immunostaining revealed inflammatory cells within the lamellar dermis. SEL were significantly elongated in laminitic hooves relative to controls, with the greatest elongation in those attached to abaxial and middle regions of PEL.

Conclusions: Laminitis induced by prolonged infusion of insulin lacked widespread basement membrane disintegration, and increases in epidermal cellular proliferation at axial aspects were marked for this acute stage of disease.

Potential relevance: Defining equine laminitis entirely in terms of separation of the basement membrane may not be appropriate for laminitis associated with hyperinsulinaemia.