A Surgical Cure for Cushing’s

Cushing’s disease in horses, also known as equine pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), is caused by excessive hormone secretion from a tumour in the brain’s pituitary gland. It is often diagnosed in senior horses, and is characterized by abnormal hair growth, a change to fat deposit patterns (including a “cresty” neck) and laminitis. Currently, the only treatment for Cushing’s is daily drug therapy, but researchers at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) are working on a long-term, surgical solution. The pituitary gland sits below the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for hormone regulation. The pituitary gland’s primary function is to produce and release hormones into the circulatory system. Pituitary hormone production is normally regulated by chemicals, such as dopamine, from the hypothalamus. In PPID-affected horses, neurons of the hypothalamus degenerate. As a result, the hypothalamus releases less dopamine. A tumour develops, and hormone production in the pituitary…

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