ChanHee Mok, newly minted PhD in the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center, successfully defended her PhD virtually via Zoom and Facebook Live platforms June 18.

Her presentation, titled, “Comparative Chondrogenesis of Interzone and Anlagen Cells in Equine Skeletal Development,” drew from work completed in the laboratory of James MacLeod, VMD, PhD, John S. and Elizabeth A. Knight chair at the Gluck Equine Research Center and director of UK Ag Equine Programs.

According to her bio, Mok, who is from Cheongju, South Korea, earned her bachelor’s degree in animal science from KonKuk University. She decided to pursue graduate school and chose equine science as her emphasis area because there are not many equine scientists with a master's or doctoral degree in South Korea, even though the equine industry is rapidly growing there. Due to the lack of equine graduate programs in South Korean universities, she elected to study abroad to pursue her higher educational goals.

Located in the region widely regarded as the Horse Capital of the World, UK was her first choice because of its quality equine research and publications. She earned a master's degree in equine nutrition from the Department of Animal and Food Sciences in the laboratory of Kristine Urschel, PhD, associate professor.

As she gained academic and practical experience on issues related to horses, Mok recognized the importance of musculoskeletal physiology, in terms of both the biomedical issues and economic priorities within the equine industry. Her dissertation studies focused on the developmental biology of cartilage, comparing two fetal cell types, interzone and anlagen cells, that differentiate into distinct cartilaginous tissues. The research provides a foundation of knowledge for future experiments on cell-based therapies to enhance the repair of structural defects and injuries in cartilage.

Financial support for Mok’s research came from the Hughes Foundation, Morris Animal Foundation, Spy Coast Farm and Gluck Equine Research Foundation. Watch her dissertation here.

Holly Wiemers, MA, APR, is the communications and managing director of UK Ag Equine Programs.