Kentucky Scientists Participate In New Horse Genetic Code Mapping

Nov 19, 2018


Research lead by two Kentucky scientists, one studying veterinary medicine, the other focusing on biochemistry, could impact how horses with certain inherited diseases are treated.


The research has been described as ‘filling in the gaps’ in the equine reference genome first released in 2009.  

University of Kentucky Professor of Veterinary Science Jamie MacLeod calls it a substantial improvement to mapping the DNA sequence of all horses.  He said it could affect analyzing DNA from groups of animals with certain diseases or behavioral traits.


“We can do that better and more efficiently and more accurately because our reference map, our reference genome is more accurate,” he said.


The advances came through re-analyzing DNA from a thoroughbred named Twilight who was the basis for the original horse reference genome.  Through this re-analysis, the scientists generated a more than ten-fold increase in data.  MacLeod said that data is not limited to horse diseases, but could also pertain to traits like growth rate and performance aspects. He said he would expect to see the research help with development of medications. 


University of Louisville principal investigator Ted Kalbfleisch works at the School of Medicine in biochemistry and molecular genetics.


“You can only study what you can see and what we have done with the release of this genome is illuminate a great deal more of the horse genome,” he said.


The new equine reference genome, known as EquCab3.0, has been published in Communications Biology, representing the work of 21 co-authors from 14 universities and academic centers around the world. The horse reference genome is publicly available through the National Center for Biotechnology Information, a division of the National Institutes of Health.