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Equine clinical genomics: A clinician's primer


  • The terms ‘horse’ and ‘horse genome’ used throughout this text refer specifically to the domestic horse, Equus caballus, and the genome thereof.

  • The terms ‘equine’ and ‘equid’ used throughout this text refer to all animals within the genus Equus, including the domestic horse, Przewalski's horse, asses, zebras and related hybrids.



The objective of this review is to introduce equine clinicians to the rapidly evolving field of clinical genomics with a vision of improving the health and welfare of the domestic horse. For 15 years a consortium of veterinary geneticists and clinicians has worked together under the umbrella of The Horse Genome Project. This group, encompassing 22 laboratories in 12 countries, has made rapid progress, developing several iterations of linkage, physical and comparative gene maps of the horse with increasing levels of detail. In early 2006, the research was greatly facilitated when the US National Human Genome Research Institute of the National Institutes of Health added the horse to the list of mammalian species scheduled for whole genome sequencing. The genome of the domestic horse has now been sequenced and is available to researchers worldwide in publicly accessible databases. This achievement creates the potential for transformative change within the horse industry, particularly in the fields of internal medicine, sports medicine and reproduction. The genome sequence has enabled the development of new genome-wide tools and resources for studying inherited diseases of the horse. To date, researchers have identified 11 mutations causing 10 clinical syndromes in the horse. Testing is commercially available for all but one of these diseases. Future research will probably identify the genetic bases for other equine diseases, produce new diagnostic tests and generate novel therapeutics for some of these conditions. This will enable equine clinicians to play a critical role in ensuring the thoughtful and appropriate application of this knowledge as they assist clients with breeding and clinical decision-making.