Researchers have identified a potential avenue for assessing the wellbeing of a mare and foal during the late stages of pregnancy.
The study team targeted tiny packages of RNA, known as microRNAs, in the whole blood of pregnant mares. They play an important role in regulating the function of genes.
University of Kentucky researcher Barry Ball and his colleagues took blood samples for analysis from five pregnant mares at eight months, nine months and ten months after conception. They also took samples 14 to 31 days after the birth of the foal.
Samples were taken from four non-pregnant mares for comparison.
The blood underwent molecular analysis to evaluate the presence of 178 micoRNAs.
The researchers identified, for the first time, pregnancy-associated circulating microRNAs in late-pregnant mares.
Eight circulating miRNAs changed significantly during gestation, with five considered of particular interest, they reported in the open-access peer-reviewed journal PLOS ONE.
“Due to their presence in peripheral circulation, these micoRNAs are easily assessed with a simple blood test,” they reported.
“Although their diagnostic ability is still being evaluated, they have potential to be used as biomarkers for the assessment of gestational well-being.”
The study team comprised Ball, Shavahn Loux, Kirsten Scoggin, Mats Troedsson and Edward Squires, all from the University of Kentucky; Jason Bruemmer, from Colorado State University; and Igor Canisso, from the University of Illinois.
Ball and Loux came up with the study concept.
Loux SC, Scoggin KE, Bruemmer JE, Canisso IF, Troedsson MHT, Squires EL, et al. (2017) Evaluation of circulating miRNAs during late pregnancy in the mare. PLoS ONE 12(4): e0175045. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0175045