Thursday, January 21, 2010

Genetic Test for ‘Speed Gene’ in Thoroughbred Horses

Researchers have identified a gene that can predict the type of work that is most appropriate for an individual Thoroughbred racehorse.

The work, led by Dr Emmeline Hill at University College Dublin, was published in the Public Library of Science Journal, PLoS ONE.

The MSTN gene is responsible for muscle mass development. At a specific point in the gene, the code can contain either the letter C or the letter T. As each individual has two copies of the gene—one inherited from the dam, one from the sire—there are three possible combinations of the letters: C:C, C:T or T:T.

The researchers found that C:C horses were suited to fast, short-distance races; C:T horses competed favorably in middle-distance races; and T:T horses had greater stamina.

The findings were independently validated in a re-sampled group of 62 unrelated elite (Group and Listed race winners) Thoroughbreds and in another group of 37 elite racehorses.

Following the success of the research program, Dr Hill and Mr Jim Bolger, the renowned Irish racehorse trainer and breeder, co-founded a company, Equinome, in 2009 to commercialize the test.

Dr Hill says “Using the Equinome Speed Gene test, a world first in equine genetics, it will now be possible to definitively know a horse’s genetic type within weeks of a sample being taken, thus reducing much of the uncertainty that has been typically involved in selection, training and breeding decisions.”

“Racehorse owners and trainers around the world will be able to identify if a horse is ideally suited to racing over short, middle or middle-to-long distances. With this information, they can then optimize their purchasing and training decisions and better target suitable races for their horses. Breeders, stallion managers and bloodstock agents will also be able to use the test to make more precise selection and breeding decisions to maximize the genetic potential and commercial value of their horses.”

Dr Hill will formally launch Equinome and the Equinome Speed Gene test at 2pm on January 29th at the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders Association Expo 2010 in a seminar entitled Cracking the code: The Speed Gene revealed.


For more information about Equinome

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