UK Graduate Student Spotlight: John E. Eberth

Name: John E. Eberth
From: Versailles, Ky.
Degrees and institute where received: BA, Biology, DePauw University;
MS Genetics, University of Kentucky

John Eberth has worked with horses his entire life in multiple areas within the equine industry. Therefore, pursuing equine genetics for his graduate degree was a natural next step.

“There is no better place to go for that than the horse capital of the world and the University of Kentucky Gluck Equine Research Center,” he said.

During the summer of 2013, Eberth completed his master’s degree in equine genetics in the Department of Veterinary Science under the supervision of Gluck Center professor Ernie Bailey, PhD. His research uncovered four mutations in the gene aggrecan (the major structural protein of cartilage) that are associated with dwarfism in the Miniature Horse.

This gene produces a protein that is an integral constituent of articular cartilage, he said. These dwarfisms have various phenotypes (physical characteristics) ranging from embryonic lethals (causing death) to dwarfs that grow to maturity and develop various bone growth abnormalities.

“This bone growth abnormality results in varying severity of restriction and/or loss of normal function for the horse that secondarily can cause death,” he said.

Eberth said all of these mutations are inherited recessively, so it is an unfortunate circumstance to discover a foal is a dwarf and that the parents carry the mutation.

With the assistance of Kathryn Graves, PhD, director of the Animal Genetic Testing Research Laboratory, Eberth developed the tests for dwarfism for these mutations.

“My hope is that these tests will help the breeders of Miniature Horses and assist them in producing Miniatures without these deleterious mutations,” he said.

Eberth is continuing his graduate studies in genetics with a PhD program at UK and hopes to solve other problems related to the health and performance of horses.

Shaila Sigsgaard is an editorial assistant for the Bluegrass Equine Digest.

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More information on Gluck Equine Research Center and UK Ag Equine Programs.

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