MAF Beginning First Phase of Equine Genetic Research Consortium

Equine scientists will begin developing a unique set of research tools that will lead to major advances in the health of horses worldwide through the Morris Animal Foundation's Equine Consortium for Genetic Research.

The Equine Consortium for Genetic Research is a five-year, $2.5 million project to rapidly advance equine health. Led by University of Minnesota professors Jim Mickelson, PhD, and Stephanie Valberg, DVM, PhD, the consortium includes 32 scientists from 18 elite academic institutions throughout nine countries.

The first research tool, SNP chips, will allow researchers to define underlying genetic factors that influence highly heritable and common equine diseases, such as tying up, heaves, laminitis, and osteochondrosis. With these chips, the consortium members will take the first step in reaching their long-term goals of understanding inherited diseases as well as the influence of genetics in the development of non-inherited equine diseases. This will impact the health of horses by developing new ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease. In addition, the genetic information gained will serve as a valuable tool for managing breeding programs and preventing disease.

"Equine diseases are not all necessarily directly inherited," said Patricia N. Olson, DVM, PhD, president and CEO of Morris Animal Foundation. "But understanding the role genes play in the development of diseases will greatly impact our ability to treat horses."

The recent sequencing of the equine genome will help these scientists make major health breakthroughs for horses.

"An explosion of knowledge about human disease occurred after the human genome was sequenced in 2001. These rapid advances can now be paralleled in

the horse with the sequencing of the equine genome in 2007 and the support of the Morris Animal Foundation Equine Consortium," Valberg said. "We are really excited to soon have the tools that will take the equine research community to the forefront of scientific discovery."

Phase one of this project is possible in part through generous donations from: the AAEP Foundation, including The Aringo Memorial Fund; the ASPCA; the Keeneland Foundation; and generous individual donors. For more information, call 800/243-2345, or visit

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