Animal Genetic Testing and Research Lab Gets New Name

The test for the dwarfism (a mutation found in Miniature Horses) was discovered at the Gluck Center in the laboratory of Ernie Bailey, PhD.

Photo: iStock

The University of Kentucky Animal Genetic Testing and Research Laboratory has been renamed Genetic Testing at Gluck to better align with its mission to offer the highest quality DNA testing combined with personalized customer service while discovering the genetic basis for traits and diseases in horses.

Part of the Department of Veterinary Science in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Genetic Testing at Gluck relocated to the UK Gluck Equine Research Center in 2009 after being housed in the Dimock Animal Pathology Building for 23 years. The lab was also formally known as the Parentage Testing Laboratory and before that as the Horse Bloodtyping Laboratory. It is one of three laboratories associated with public universities in the United States. The other two are at the University of California, Davis, and Texas A&M University.

“The Genetic Testing at Gluck laboratory will continue the tradition of providing both excellent service and research expertise to the equine community,” said David Horohov, PhD, chair of the Department of Veterinary Science, director of the Gluck Equine Research Center, and Jes E. and Clementine M. Schlaikjer Endowed Chair.

Under the leadership of Kathryn Graves, PhD, the lab offers genetic tests including DNA typing, parentage analysis, and color gene and disease mutation testing. The lab serves more than 40 horse breed registries by confirming parentage prior to registration and offering customized services to meet the needs of each association. However, many individual owners and breeders use the lab’s testing services, as well. The lab is the only one still offering traditional blood typing for parentage. Blood typing services also include antibody screening and cross-matching for neonatal isoerythrolysis (NI, in which a mare's antibodies attack her foal's red blood cells).

DNA technology began replacing blood typing for parentage verification around 1994, providing owners with a more convenient sample submission process involving mane hair samples instead of blood samples.

Genetic Testing at Gluck: Did you know…

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

… A mare can develop harmful antibodies in her colostrum (first milk) that destroy her foal’s red blood cells after it nurses?

As foaling season approaches, you can make sure your mare’s colostrum will be safe by having her blood tested through the neonatal isoerythrolysis (NI) testing service at Genetic Testing at Gluck laboratory.

For additional information on the tests offered, including pricing and how to submit samples, visit ca.uky.edu/gluck/AGTRL.

“The laboratory has been part of the evolving technology in genetic identification of horses during its 30 years of existence, from labor-intensive blood typing to the streamlined and automated genotyping using DNA from a few hairs,” Graves said.

With the sequencing of the horse genome in 2007 came the development of more tests for genetic diseases such as junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB, commonly found in Saddlebreds), overo lethal white syndrome (OLWS, a concern in Paint horses) and dwarfism (a mutation found in Miniature Horses). The test for JEB was developed at the lab while the test for the dwarfism was discovered at the Gluck Center in the laboratory of Ernie Bailey, PhD.

Other tests available at the Genetic Testing at Gluck laboratory can determine the presence of mutations in genes linked to coat color, such as the E locus gene, which controls the presence of red or black hair; the Agouti gene, which determines whether a horse is bay or black; the Cream Dilution gene, responsible for palominos and buckskins; Champagne Dilution; Silver; Gray; Sabino; and Tobiano. The mutations responsible for the champagne, tobiano, and sabino color patterns were discovered at the Gluck Center in Bailey’s laboratory.  

“Exciting possibilities exist for the discovery of additional variations in the genome that extend beyond color mutations, including genes that affect performance, growth, temperament, and disease susceptibility,” said Graves. “Technology is moving forward at a rapid pace, which will allow us to mine genetic information faster and more affordably.”

While the main focus of Genetic Testing at Gluck is on horses, the lab also offers canine DNA genotyping and parentage testing and hereditary juvenile cataract mutation testing.

“We plan to take advantage of every opportunity to expand the tests we offer and most importantly to continue our research efforts to discover new mutations in horses and other animals here at the Gluck Center,” Graves said.

For additional information on the tests offered, including pricing and how to submit samples, visit ca.uky.edu/gluck/AGTRL.

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