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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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Charities' XL bully neutering scheme closes

News Story 1
 A scheme that helped owners of XL bully dogs with the cost of neutering has closed to new applications due to high demand.

The scheme, run by the RSPCA, Blue Cross, and Battersea, has helped 1,800 dogs and their owners after XL bullies were banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act.

In England and Wales, owners of XL bully dogs which were over one year old on 31 January 2021 have until 30 June 2024 to get their dog neutered. If a dog was between seven months and 12 months old, it must be neutered by 31 December 2024. If it was under seven months old, owners have until 30 June 2025.

More information can be found on the Defra website. 

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News Shorts
Avian flu cattle outbreak spreads to tenth US state

Cattle in two dairy herds in Iowa have tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), making it the tenth state in the USA to be affected by the ongoing outbreak of the disease in cattle.

Since March 2024, more than 80 herds across the USA have been affected by the virus and three dairy workers have tested positive. Authorities have introduced measures to limit the spread of the virus and farmers have been urged to strengthen their biosecurity protocols.

Mike Naig, Iowa secretary of agriculture, said: "Given the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza within dairy cattle in many other states, it is not a surprise that we would have a case given the size of our dairy industry in Iowa.

"While lactating dairy cattle appear to recover with supportive care, we know this destructive virus continues to be deadly for poultry."