Potential biomakers for equine sarcoids explored in Swiss study

Two microRNAs show promise in revealing susceptibility to sarcoids in young male horses.
Two microRNAs show promise in revealing susceptibility to sarcoids in young male horses. (File image)

Two microRNAs have the potential to predict if young male horses are susceptible to developing sarcoids, according to researchers in Switzerland.

The scientists, writing in the journal PLOS ONE, say more work on the diagnostic and prognostic potential of microRNA biomarkers for equine sarcoid disease is warranted.

“These epigenetic biomarkers can take us one step further towards personalized veterinary medicine by successfully monitoring disease progression or predicting response to therapy in the near future,” Jeanne Cosandey and her fellow researchers wrote.

Scientists believe that microRNAs have potential as biomarkers for equine sarcoids, the most prevalent equine skin tumors globally.

The study team set out to explore the diagnostic and prognostic potential of whole blood microRNAs identified in a previous study for long-term equine sarcoid diagnosis and outcome prediction.

The researchers split 32 Franches-Montagnes and 45 Swiss Warmblood horses into four groups, based on the findings of clinical examinations when they were three years old, and a follow-up after a further 5 to 12 years.

In terms of equine sarcoids, 19 of the horses were classified as being in regression, nine showed evidence of sarcoid progression, 19 had new occurrences of sarcoids, and 30 served as tumor-free control horses.

The expression levels for eight microRNAs (eca-miR-127, eca-miR-432, eca-miR-24, eca-miR-125a-5p, eca-miR-134, eca-miR-379, eca-miR-381 and eca-miR-382) were analyzed in whole blood samples collected on initial examination.

The researchers in the University of Bern study looked for associations of sex, breed, diagnosis, and prognosis with the microRNA expression levels determined by the testing.

They found that sex affected the expression level of five microRNAs, and two were influenced by breed.

Eca-miR-127 allowed discrimination between sarcoid-affected and tumor-free horses.

No variation in microRNA expression was found when comparing horses with sarcoid regression and progression.

An equine sarcoid.
An equine sarcoid. Image: Malcolm_Morley, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The authors reported that expression levels of eca-miR-125a-5p and eca-miR-432 varied in male horses that developed sarcoids throughout the study period in comparison to male control horses.

While none of the investigated microRNAs could be validated for predicting the prognosis of sarcoid regression or progression within young horses with this condition, eca-miR-125a-5p and eca-miR-432 showed potential to predict if young male (though not female) tumor-free horse can develop sarcoids within the following years.

The researchers said their finding that sex and breed can affect the expression of some microRNAs in horses will have an impact on biomarker discovery.

The University of Bern study team comprised Cosandey, Eman Hamza, Vinzenz Gerber, Alessandra Ramseyer, Klaudia Blaszczyk, Lucia Unger, Tosso Leeb and Vidhya Jagannathan; with Cosandey, Hamza, Gerber, Ramseyer, Blaszczyk and Unger also affiliated with Agroscope, the Swiss centre for agricultural research.

Cosandey J, Hamza E, Gerber V, Ramseyer A, Leeb T, Jagannathan V, et al. (2021) Diagnostic and prognostic potential of eight whole blood microRNAs for equine sarcoid disease. PLoS ONE 16(12): e0261076. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0261076

The study, published under a Creative Commons License,  can be read here



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