Bid to identify genetic mutations linked to equine endocrine disorders

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Cushing's disease in horses commonly causes excessive hair growth, muscle wasting along the top line, and abnormal fat distribution. Photo: AbujoyCC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Cushing’s disease in horses commonly causes excessive hair growth, muscle wasting along the top line, and abnormal fat distribution. Photo: AbujoyCC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Researchers in the United States are hoping to identify genetic mutations associated with endocrine disease in horses.

One of the most common endocrine disorders in equines is pituitary pars intermedia dysfunction (PPID), also referred to as equine Cushing’s disease. About 20% of older horses, ponies and donkeys of all breeds are affected by the condition.

PPID is a neurodegenerative disease which results in the overproduction of hormones from a section of the pituitary gland known as pars intermedia.

PPID is difficult to diagnose, especially in its early stages.

Clinical signs include muscle loss, change in behavior, recurrent infections and laminitis which can seriously impact quality of life and even lead to euthanasia in severe cases.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota, led by Molly McCue, hope to identify genetic mutations in a variety of related genes that contribute to an increased risk for PPID development in horses.

In earlier studies, the team identified more than 250 genetic mutations that may contribute to PPID.

In upcoming research, backed by a grant from the Morris Animal Foundation, the scientists will validate the effects of these mutations in a larger group of horses.

Identification of potential disease-causing mutations will aid the development of genetic tests to better screen and diagnose affected horses.

The ultimate goal is to initiate treatment earlier before the worst effects of PPID impact the patient.

Horsetalk.co.nz

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