Friday, December 10, 2010

Equine genetic research progress

Knowledge of the horse’s genetic blueprint has opened many avenues of research according to a recent report.

The “genome” is the term used to refer to an individual’s full set of DNA.  In the horse, it consists of about 2.7 billion base pairs. DNA carries the genes that code for thousands of different kinds of proteins. The precise characteristics of each gene are determined by the sequence in which four bases  - adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C) and guanine (G) - are laid out along the DNA's double-helix structure.

A special supplement to the scientific journal Animal Genetics has been published to emphasise the importance of the genome to equine research.

The Dorothy R Havemeyer Foundation, a private foundation that conducts scientific research to improve the general health and welfare of horses, funded publication of the supplement. Its founder and sole benefactor was Dorothy Havemeyer McConville, also known as Dorothy Russell Havemeyer.

The Foundation appoints principal investigators to work on specific projects. Currently the focus of research is on equine reproduction, behaviour, and infectious diseases and on the creation of an equine genetic map.

Genetic research has long been a topic of interest to the Foundation, a workshop on the subject having been convened first in 1995,

Dr Ernest Bailey, of the University of Kentucky's Gluck Equine Research Center, wrote in the foreword to the supplement: "In this issue, scientists report research and discoveries made possible using the new genomic information."

"Indeed, the work includes gene discoveries and genetic characterization of horse breeds and sheds light on hereditary conditions that affect performance of horses. But the genome information is also useful to understand non-hereditary diseases and traits as well. Several reports in this issue address gene expression in connection with exercise and laminitis."

Bailey emphasises that using the genome sequence in research will bring many benefits both to the horse and to the economy as a whole.

"As scientists become more familiar with using genomic information for equine studies, we can anticipate more discoveries and the development of new diagnostic tests, therapeutic products and management approaches to improve the health and well-being of the horse."

"This should be remembered as a legacy from the Dorothy Russell Havemeyer Foundation."

The full report is available for download (free).

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