Reasons for performing study: Current theories explaining how the hoof wall ‘grows’ and moves past the stationary distal phalanx are speculative and based on incomplete evidence. Movement in the lamellar region could occur by cell proliferation or an enzyme-based remodelling process. Since laminitis pathogenesis appears to involve increased transcription and activation of enzymes normally involved in tissue remodelling, it is important to know precisely which process dominates the lamellar region of the hoof.
Objectives: T o investigate epidermal cell proliferation in the equine hoof wall and calculate a proliferative index (PI) for the coronet, lamellae and toe.
Methods: An analogue of thymidine, 5-bromo-2′-deoxyuridine (BRdU), was infused i.v. into 5 ponies. After tissue harvesting, BRdU (and therefore basal cell proliferation) was detected immunohistochemically using mouse anti-BRdU. PIs were calculated for the coronet and 10 levels of the dorsal hoof wall lamellae.
Results: The highest PIs (mean ± s.e.) were in the coronet; 12.04%± 1.59 and proximal lamellae (7.13%± 1.92) and are therefore growth zones of the proximal hoof wall. PIs of more distal lamellae were 0.11%± 0.04 to 0.97%± 0.29; significantly lower (P = 0.05) than the lamellar growth zone.
Conclusions: A 20-fold PI decrease between proximal and more distal lamellae suggests that the majority of the normal lamellae are nonproliferative and their main function is to suspend the distal phalanx within the hoof capsule. Remodelling within the hoof wall epidermal lamellae, which must occur as the hoof wall moves past the stationary distal phalanx, is a process not requiring epidermal cell proliferation.
Potential relevance: A hoof lamellar epidermis that remodels using the same MMPs involved in laminitis pathogenesis implies that laminitis is a normal process out of control. Understanding MMP control and how the normal lamellar epidermis achieves this will help in the development of better laminitis preventative and treatment strategies.