Colic & butyrate

Panacea butyrate? Evaluation of production, effects and therapeutic potential in the equine colon

The horse's digestive tract is a complex, highly sensitive ecosystem and a common cause of serious, sometimes life-threatening diseases summarized under the term "colic". Unfortunately, to date only limited therapeutic options have been identified to prevent this disease or to improve survival. As in humans, the microbial colonization of the gastrointestinal tract has recently become the focus of attention as an important factor for intestinal health in horses. The products of the resident bacteria (microbiota), in particular short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), may elicit protective effects against disease.

This is where the project “colic & butyrate” comes in: together with the students, it will be investigated how the microbiota of the healthy horse is composed, how it changes due to everyday influences and whether there is a connection between the SCFA produced and (intestinal) health. The students at the Agricultural Technical School Tullnerbach and their (four-legged) teachers will actively support us. In addition, the effect of SCFA on the equine intestinal epithelium will be investigated and possible therapeutic strategies derived from our results. To accomplish this, an organoid culture from the equine large intestine will be used, i.e., a modern method in which a pathological situation can be simulated and investigated on an "intestine in a Petri dish" while avoiding animal experiments. The project is carried out in the riding school belonging to the LFS Tullnerbach and in the laboratories of the Vetmeduni. Hence, the students can actively develop and answer scientific questions and to produce new knowledge themselves together with an interdisciplinary team of scientists. In workshops, collected data on horse health and behavior, microbiota composition and SCFA concentrations will be analyzed and evaluated. At the end of each year, the students present these results to their younger schoolmates who will be working on the project in the following year. Furthermore, the Social Media group will create content that informs interested citizens about colic in horses and the ongoing project.

(Photocredit © Franziska Dengler)