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Research finds new immune-related genes in horses
The discovery contributes to our knowledge of how MHC genes affect horses' immune systems.

The discovery highlights diversity in immune system genes.

The University of Edinburgh’s Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies have identified a range of newly uncovered gene sequences in horses’ immune systems.

The discovery of these new gene sequences reveals a larger variety of equine immune genes than were previously known, providing a stronger insight into the genetic makeup of horses and how they fight disease.

The researchers collaborated with scientists in England, Iceland and Norway to conduct analysis of genetic data from 168 horses, across three European breeds. The group used genetic sequencing technology to examine immune genes, known as Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), in Thoroughbred, Icelandic and Norwegian Fjords.

The analysis revealed a diversity in the immune systems’ genes when compared with horse populations which have evolved separately.

These gene sets come in two main types: MHCI and MHCII. Each type contains a complex arrangement of combinations which varies significantly per individual, supporting the immune system with recognising threats.

The analysis discovered 152 sequences of MHCI genes, which are responsible for monitoring infections within cells. It also found 117 new sequences of MHCII, which monitor for infections in surrounding cells.

There was a limited overlap in these gene types across the three horse breeds, which may mean that there is even greater MHC diversity in the global horse population.

Discovering these new genes may contribute to our knowledge of how MHC genes affect horses’ immune systems, as well as wider implications for clinical treatments.

It will also help with our understanding of equine health and disease, and inform breeding practices.

Dr Tim Connelley, research fellow at University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute, said: “We found a wide range of MHC genes and patterns of gene expression, allowing us to get a glimpse of how this set of genes may function in horses.

“These results could prove useful for vaccine development and novel cell-based therapies that are becoming more adopted in equine medicine."

The full study is published in the journal Cell.

Image © Shutterstock

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RCVS Knowledge appoints Veterinary Evidence editor-in-chief

News Story 1
 RCVS Knowledge has welcomed Professor Peter Cockcroft as editor-in-chief for Veterinary Evidence.

A world-renowned expert in evidence-based veterinary medicine, Prof Cockcroft will lead the strategic development and editorial quality of the open-access journal. He was previously in the role from 2017-2020.

Katie Mantell, CEO of RCVS Knowledge, said: "We are excited about the extensive knowledge of evidence-based veterinary medicine and clinical veterinary research that Peter brings, and we look forward to working with him over this next phase of the journal's development." 

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Defra to host bluetongue webinar for vets

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) will be hosting a webinar for veterinary professional on bluetongue on Thursday, 25 April 2024.

Topics covered will include the transmission cycle, pathology and pathogenesis, clinical signs (including signs seen in recent BTV-3 cases in the Netherlands), and control and prevention.

The session, which will take place from 6pm to 7.30pm, is part of Defra's 'Plan, Prevent and Protect' webinar series, which are hosted by policy officials, epidemiologists and veterinary professionals from Defra and the Animal and Plant Health Agency. The bluetongue session will also feature insights from experts from The Pirbright Institute.

Those attending will have the opportunity to ask questions. Places on the webinar can be booked online.