An innovative therapy called IRAP, Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein, is showing promising results for the treatment of osteoarthritis in horses. Equine athletes are susceptible to musculoskeletal injuries and osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease. There are many conventional therapies for osteoarthritis which include rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, intra-articular (joint) injections, oral supplementation and extracorporeal shockwave therapy. Osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of lameness in a horse. Many factors come into play such as age, type of performance, conditioning, trauma and development diseases. The clinical signs of osteoarthritis include lameness, poor performance, stiffness, and joint swelling. These signs are a result of synovitis and progressive cartilage damage within the joint.
IRAP was developed to counteract the inflammatory protein interleukin-1 that is produced in the joint during synovitis and to slow the progression of osteoarthritis. This therapy involves utilizing the body's own healing mechanisms in the treatment of lameness.
Procedure: Reference – College of Veterinary Medicine – University of Florida
The blood is collected and incubated for 24 hours in a special syringe which stimulates production of the antagonist protein. After incubation, the blood is placed in a centrifuge and the plasma (containing IRAP) is separated from the blood cells. The plasma is stored in multiple aliquots and placed in a special freezer at -80 degrees Celsius for use at any time. The IRAP-rich plasma is then thawed and sterilely injected into the affected joint. The joint is usually treated every 7-10 days for 3 or more treatments with 1-8 ml, depending on the size and location of the joint. Rest is typically recommended for at least 5-7 days following the injection, per your veterinarian.
IRAP is another therapy in the battery of weapons that the equine veterinarian has to combat osteoarthritis in your horse. The reason IRAP is so exciting is its potential for a long-term effect on battling osteoarthritis. Whereas some therapies listed might only have short-term effect, IRAP has the potential to stop the cartilage matrix from being degraded as well as increase healing. It also has the ability to stop the inflammation cycle and bring comfort to your horse and is different from other products as it treats the cause of joint disease at the site of action and is aimed at restoring joint lining and cartilage function.
Talk with your veterinarian, as they are the best resource to determine is IRAP if right for your horse.