Objective—To determine whether serum concentrations of biomarkers of skeletal metabolism can, in conjunction with radiographic evaluation, indicate severity of osteochondrosis in developing horses.
Animals—43 Dutch Warmblood foals with varying severity of osteochondrosis.
Procedure—24 foals were monitored for 5 months and 19 foals were monitored for 11 months. Monthly radiographs of femoropatellar-femorotibial and tibiotarsal joints were graded for osteochondral abnormalities. Serial blood samples were assayed for 8 cartilage and bone biomarkers. At the end of the monitoring period, foals were examined for macroscopic osteochondrosis lesions.
Results—Temporal relationships were evident between certain serum biomarkers and osteochondrosis severity in foals during their first year. Biomarkers of collagen degradation (collagenasegenerated neoepitopes of type-II collagen fragments, type-I and -II collagen fragments [COL2-3/4Cshort], and cross-linked telopeptide fragments of type-I collagen) and bone mineralization (osteocalcin) were positive indicators of osteochondrosis severity at 5 months of age. In foals with lesions at 11 months of age, osteochondrosis severity correlated negatively with COL2-3/4Cshort and osteocalcin and positively with C-propeptide of type-II procollagen (CPII), a collagen synthesis marker. Radiographic grading of osteochondrosis lesions significantly correlated with macroscopic osteochondrosis severity score at both ages and was strongest when combined with osteocalcin at 5 months and CPII at 11 months.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The ability of serum biomarkers to indicate osteochondrosis severity appears to depend on stage of disease and is strengthened with radiography. In older foals with more permanent lesions, osteochondrosis severity is significantly related to biomarker concentrations of decreased bone formation and increased cartilage synthesis. (Am J Vet Res 2004;65:143–150)