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CVM Ph.D. Student Earns Recognition for Colic Research

Amy Stieler Stewart, a NC State College of Veterinary Medicine Ph.D. student researching the game-changing use of stem cells to treat colic in horses, has received a fellowship from the American Association of Equine Practitioners.

Stewart received the AAEP Foundation Past Presidents Research Fellow Scholarship at the organization’s convention in San Francisco. Awarded annually since 2006, the $5,000 grant recognizes a graduate student or resident making significant strides in equine health care research.

Stewart, a member of the Intestinal Regenerative Medicine Lab of Liara Gonzalez, CVM assistant professor of gastroenterology and equine surgery, is researching how intestinal epithelial stem cells can repair damaged intestines in animals suffering from colic, the leading medical cause of death for horses.

“I feel very fortunate to have received this award and am honored to be a part of the AAEP,” said Stewart. “We are all dedicated to improving the health and well-being of horses through research.”

As part of her colic research, Stewart developed intestinal enteroids, dubbed “mini guts,” a 3-D, complex replication of the innermost layer of a horse’s intestine that are made from stem cells. Mini guts were developed as research tools to better understand the mechanisms of tissue damage seen in gastrointestinal diseases.

Amy Stieler Stewart receives $5,000 grant that recognizes a graduate student or resident making significant strides in equine health care research. Photo courtesy of the AAEP

“Dr. Stewart has built upon her strong foundation as an internal medicine specialist to become an outstanding clinician-scientist,” said Gonzalez. “Her research is novel and innovative and will likely aid in the development of therapeutics that will improve the outcome of horses with colic.”

NC State is a leader in colic treatment. The equine emergency service offers year-round immediate care for colic and is bolstered by the most advanced diagnostic procedures, including MRI and ultrasound. Clinicians regularly see and effectively treat colic cases. NC State researchers have made groundbreaking discoveries in the treatment of colic, from ways to lessen post-surgical inflammation to determining medications that lead to a faster recovery.

Stewart is in the fourth year of her Ph.D. work in the Comparative Medicine and Translational Research Training Program run by Sam Jones, professor of equine medicine. She said she should complete her Ph.D. by next summer.

“The equine industry needs quality researchers, and this award is one important way we can add value to veterinary student graduates entering careers in research,” said Rick Mitchell, AAEP Foundation Advisory Council chairman, in a statement.

The AAEP often recognizes CVM students for forward-thinking research and devotion to equine care, particularly through scholarships. Most recently, the Class of 2018’s Emily Martin earned a $75,000 scholarship from the AAEP last year and in 2016, CVM graduate Ethan Hefner was  awarded a scholarship for his commitment to an equine medicine career.

For more information on the NC State Veterinary Hospital’s equine service, go here.

For more information on the AAEP Foundation, go here.