Skeletal Physiology

  • Nielsen, Brian (equine exercise physiology, nutrition, athletic performance)
  • Orth, Michael (joint and skeletal health, nutrition, diagnostics)

Brian D. Nielsen, Professor
Principal Investigator, Equine Exercise Physiology Laboratory
Cara O’Connor, Research Assistant

Dr. Nielsen heads the equine research program in the Department of Animal Science. Cara O’Connor, his research assistant, coordinates and manages the research laboratory and oversees many of the research projects. The primary focus of their research, conducted with graduate and undergraduate students, is aimed at improving the growth and development of the equine athlete, with special attention given to the prevention of musculoskeletal injuries. Much of their research examines the response of bone to mechanical loading and the lack thereof, and has been done not only with horses, but also with cattle and dogs. Furthermore, research on the effect of housing management on bone development in young horses has led to collaborative work in horse behavior and welfare. Many nutritional studies are conducted, particularly in the area of mineral nutrition, with special emphasis on bio-available silicon supplementation and its influence on animal health. The team has also put significant research efforts into the exploration of the special dietary needs of weanling and yearling horses in order to improve growth and prevent developmental orthopedic disorders. In addition to these primary areas, special projects explore the use of various ergogenic agents on performance enhancement in equine athletes.

Michael Orth, Professor
Growth and Musculoskeletal Biology Laboratory

My research interests focus on improving joint and skeletal health in livestock species and companion animals. We have three primary interests at the present time. First, glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate are two nutraceutical products that have been reported to improve joint health in both animals and humans. Our objective is to elucidate the mechanisms of action of those compounds since how they work in vivo is not well understood. We also investigate other molecules as well that might promote joint health. Second, in conjunction with colleagues in Engineering, Osteopathic Medicine and Veterinary Medicine, we are continually striving to improve in vitro models for the study of cartilage degeneration. Third, we are interested in using biological fluid markers to monitor bone health in livestock species. We have conducted collaborative research projects in several livestock species. Many diagnostic tools developed for humans have tremendous potential in the livestock industry for evaluating strategies designed to improve bone health.