It seems too simple to be effective and yet it appears to work like magic! Here’s the science behind this amazing little patch.
Humans and horses, and no other mammals, are capable of quickly producing an output of copious sweat for cooling. The liquid from the sweat ducts is drawn directly from the circulating blood supply. It follows that there has to be a mechanism to prevent catastrophic loss of electrolytes from circulation via sweat. This protection is achieved by the action of the sweat duct walls, which actively recover electrolytes from sweat. A fit horse or human has almost no electrolytes in sweat.
This recovery of electrolytes occurs from all exogenous fluids e.g. saliva, gastro-intestinal tract liquids, and eye liquids. It simply has not been medically recognized that conservation of electrolytes is a fundamental characteristic of the horse and human metabolism. Whenever the horse is stressed there is a tendency for electrolytes to be locked up, or inappropriately conserved. This locking up is such a fundamental protective mechanism that it is usually difficult to predict when it will occur and how it can be released.
This can be illustrated by “tying-up” or rhabdomyolysis. Here the inappropriate locking up of electrolytes means that there are insufficient ions for the muscle control nerves to use. These nerves need millions of ions per second to operate efficiently. Without the full complement of ions, part of the muscle is not under control and so the muscle starts to tear apart, causing pain, unwanted lactic acid in the blood and myoglobin in the urine (azoturia).
For the body to operate efficiently all of the necessary electrolytes must be available in the right proportions in every compartment of the body. Blood circulation, for example, contains sodium which is used to adjust osmolality. Osmolality is the proportion of substances carried by blood, which is strictly controlled. Blood also carries glucose, and if the glucose level is persistently higher than normal, then an adjustment to osmolality is made by removing some of the sodium. This removal of sodium is seen by the body as an electrolyte deficiency, causing and maintaining locking up of electrolytes elsewhere in the body. This is why tying-up is sometimes called “Monday morning disease”. A horse normally in regular work has done no work on a Sunday and so the blood glucose has increased.
The Equiwinner patch has a balanced package of sealed electrolytes, e.g. sodium, potassium, magnesium, chloride, calcium, and carbon. When the patch is placed on or near to the skin of the horse, the skin cells, at a microscopic level, recognize the electrolytes in the patch and generate electrical signals which pass to all other cells in the body. This “artificial” generation of signals is sufficient to switch off the inappropriate conservation of electrolytes throughout the body, when a fresh patch is used on different spots on the skin of the horse each day for ten days. Freeing electrolytes to work properly in this way solves a number of problems including EIPH bleeding, tying up, headshaking and non-sweating as well as ensuring full hydration and optimum performance.
Non-sweating (or anhidrosis) and EIPH bleeding are two parts of the same problem. If the exact correct balance of electrolytes is not present in normal perspiration, then the protection against normal skin microbes entering some of the millions of sweat ducts in the skin is lost. Microbes enter the ducts and the immune reaction to their presence blocks the duct. Forced sweating, as in unaccustomed high temperatures, often upsets the electrolyte balance.
When the sweat ducts are blocked, the sweat glands nevertheless continue to produce sweat under pressure, but the sweat stays within the skin, destroying adjacent blood capillaries. The loss of part of the circulatory system, known as capillary rarefaction, is well known in humans and causes blood pressure to rise. The increase in blood pressure caused by capillary rarefaction is sufficient to burst the blood vessels in the lungs during exercise, known as EIPH.
A question which is often asked is “how do the skin cells recognize the electrolyte ions in the patch if they are sealed and nothing actually passes into the body?”. For an explanation of this we have to thank Professor Roderick MacKinnon, who won the 2003 Nobel Prize for his work. Cell ion channels pass electrolyte ions into and out of cells, and each channel is specialized to pass a particular ion, e.g. sodium. It had always been a mystery that the channel for any particular ion was much larger than was needed, so how did a channel accept the right ion and reject others? Professor MacKinnon, in an elegant paper describing the structure of ion channels, showed that the channel recognized not the ion itself, but the pattern of water molecules around the ion. This recognition caused the ion channel to generate an electrical signal and allowed the correct ion with its unique water “jacket” to pass through.
The sealing method used in the Equiwinner patch does not allow liquid water to contact the electrolytes enclosed in the patch. So nothing from the patch can dissolve into solution as with drugs or herbals. However, the sealing coat is made to attract water vapor (a gas) from the atmosphere, so that interfacial water coats the electrolytes. This is sufficient for the skin cell ion channels to recognize the electrolyte ions by the pattern of water molecules. Recognition causes the cells to generate electrical signals. The patch uses a fuzzy logic method to continue the effect millions of times per second for 24 hours, after which a fresh patch must be used in any different position on the skin. After ten days the optimum habituation of the horse metabolism is established and the inappropriate conservation of ions ceases for up to a year.
Equiwinner has been available since 2003 and at present is the only effective treatment for EIPH bleeding, anhidrosis, tying up and headshaking. The Equiwinner action of achieving the effect of a medicine by specifically prompting a cell signal cascade and without any substance being taken into solution in the body is completely novel. A world first. Equiwinner is the result of over twenty years of research and is patented or has patents pending worldwide.