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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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Rabbit Awareness Week set to return this summer

News Story 1
 Rabbit Awareness Week (RAW) is returning this summer, running from 24-28 June 2024. The theme for this year will be 'Healthy Diet, Happy Bunnies'.

The focus on rabbits' diet comes after the most recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report report revealed that 42 per cent of veterinary professionals identified inappropriate diet as one of the five most important rabbit welfare issues that need to be address.

The campaign will include veterinary blogs, videos, and digital waiting room resources. Practices can sign up to receive updates about RAW. 

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CVS Group hit by cyber attack

CVS Group, which owns more than 450 veterinary practices in the UK, has been hit by a cyber attack.

In a statement, the group said the incident involved unauthorised external access to a limited number of its IT systems. As soon as the attack was discovered, the group took its IT systems temporarily offline, causing 'considerable operational disruption'.

It has warned that the security steps taken and ongoing plans to move its operational systems and IT infrastructure to the Cloud are likely to have an ongoing impact over a number of weeks.

Due to the risk that personal information was accessed, CVS has informed the Information Commissioner's Office. The company is working with third party consultants to investigate the incident.