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Physics of animal health: on the mechano-biology of hoof growth and form

DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2019.0214 DOI Help

Authors: Ramzi Al-agele (University of Nottingham; University of Diyala) , Emily Paul (University of Nottingham) , Sophie Taylor (University of Nottingham) , Charlotte Watson (University of Nottingham) , Craig Sturrock (University of Nottingham) , Michael Drakopoulos (Diamond Light Source) , Robert C. Atwood (Diamond Light Source) , Catrin S. Rutland (University of Nottingham) , Nicola Menzies-gow (The Royal Veterinary College) , Edd Knowles (The Royal Veterinary College) , Jonathan Elliott (The Royal Veterinary College) , Patricia Harris (Equine Studies Group) , Cyril Rauch (University of Nottingham)
Co-authored by industrial partner: No

Type: Journal Paper
Journal: Journal Of The Royal Society Interface , VOL 16

State: Published (Approved)
Published: June 2019

Open Access Open Access

Abstract: Global inequalities in economic access and agriculture productivity imply that a large number of developing countries rely on working equids for transport/agriculture/mining. Therefore, the understanding of hoof conditions/shape variations affecting equids' ability to work is still a persistent concern. To bridge this gap, using a multi-scale interdisciplinary approach, we provide a bio-physical model predicting the shape of equids’ hooves as a function of physical and biological parameters. In particular, we show (i) where the hoof growth stress originates from, (ii) why the hoof growth rate is one order of magnitude higher than the proliferation rate of epithelial cells and (iii) how the soft-to-hard transformation of the epithelium is possible allowing the hoof to fulfil its function as a weight-bearing element. Finally (iv), we demonstrate that the reason for hoof misshaping is linked to the asymmetrical design of equids' feet (shorter quarters/long toe) together with the inability of the biological growth stress to compensate for such an asymmetry. Consequently, the hoof can adopt a dorsal curvature and become ‘dished’ overtime, which is a function of the animal's mass and the hoof growth rate. This approach allows us to discuss the potential occurrence of this multifaceted pathology in equids.

Journal Keywords: ungulates; hoof pathologies; working equids; physics of life; hoof shapes

Subject Areas: Biology and Bio-materials

Instruments: I12-JEEP: Joint Engineering, Environmental and Processing