AP Biology class blog for discussing current research in Biology

Tag: horse

DNA and Cave Paining?

Photo Credit: Flickr User Photography by Ayesha Hagerman

DNA and Cave painting seem like two things that are incredibly unlikely to go together.  However, a new study on DNA are proving that the cave paintings in France dating back 25,000 years show accurate portrayals of the horses in them rather than just symbolic portrayals.  The team which includes researchers from the University of York as well as researchers form the UK, Germany, USA, Spain, Russia, and Mexico, took the genotypes and analyzed nine different coat color loci in 31 horses (pre-domestic horses specifically) which were from about 35,000 years ago.  To do this they analyzed bones and teeth found in 15 locations.

What they found surprised them as they assumed, as most people did that there were only bay and black coats at this time, but they found four pleistocene and two copper age samples form europe which showed a leopard phenotype.  Though there were 18 bays and seven black horses the fact that they could prove that there were leopard phenotypes proved that the cave paintings were a true representation of what was around the people at this time, not simply symbolic.  This study showed not only the value of cave paintings, but also the importance of the relationship between science and history.

Controversial Cure

Photo Credit: Flickr User Paolo Camera

It’s no secret that stem cells

are incredibly controversial.  However, a new study is giving hope that they may be the new cure to the horrible and often fatal disease laminitis

,which is found in horses.  Laminitis is a vascular disease in which areas of ischemia or hemostasis occur with in lamina in a horse.  The lamina are found in the hoof of a horse and are responsible for holding the coffin bone in  place.  In severe cases of laminitis the coffin bone can begin to rotate, and if it becomes fully rotated the bone will come through the hoof if the laminitis is not stopped.  When this occurs the only option is euthanasia for the horse.  Even in horses who survive laminitis this disease can be career ending and will often leave horses only able to live out their lives in a field instead of as a riding horse.  Laminitis was the cause of death for the great horse Secretariat.

This new study

regarding stem cells and laminitis is being conducted by Scott Morrison DVM of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, this hospital is located in Lexington Kentucky and is often regarded as being one of the best in the country.  According to Dr.Morrison with tradition methods of treating laminitis he had an 18% success rate treating chronic uncompensated laminitis (this means that there was a loose coffin bone), an 88% success rate treating severe coffin bone rotation and sole penetration and a 44% success rate treating severe coffin bone diseases (bone loss).  In all of the three types of laminitis listed above success refers to a horse returning to pasture soundness, not necessarily being sound to be ridden again.  Dr.Morrison began using allogenic stem cells (harvested from umbilical chord blood) in common laminitis cases 14 months ago and has used it in 31 cases so far finding that he had a 65% (13/20) success rate treating chronic uncompensated laminitis, a 100% (3/3) success rate treating severe rotation cases and a 37.5% (3/8) success rate treating severe coffin bone diseases.  Although the last number is slightly down from traditional methods the other two numbers have been drastically increased showing that stem cells may be the way to go for treating laminitis.  This study is still pretty new and long term effects and success are still unknown but thus far the numbers seem to speak for themselves which leaves the question, despite the controversy over stem cells if they can save these horses lives are they worth using?

The race for success

Photo Credit: Flickr Paolo Camera

Ever since there has been horse racing there has been debate about what is fair to the horses as well as what is fair to the bettors.  For the past few years a debate about lasix has come back to light.  This debate features the pro-lasix debate that lasix help horses by preventing exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage while people who are against lasix claim that it weakens the thoroughbred bred and it gives horses on lasix an unfair weight advantage.  Now you’re probably wondering what this debate is doing on a science blog, the answer is that of the science behind the debate. Lasix is a diuretic, as most of you probably remember form studying the kidney a diuretic makes you urinate more and flush fluids for your body while and anti-diuretic (like ADH) leads to water reabsorbtion and retention.  People who are against lasix feel that because lasix makes horses urinate it gives them an unfair weight advantage (at times up to twenty seven pounds).  In horse racing any amount of weight loss is a huge advantage as horses in “handicap races” are usually spread over a 7lb weight range to carry and in most of the larger races all horses carry an equal weight so as not to give anyone to large of an advantage.  There is also the idea that horses have multiple causes for bleeding as there are exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage which is when the blood vessels in a horses lung rupture from very hard exercise, but there is also Patent pulmonary hemorrhage which is bleeding in the lungs due to an allergy, illness or hypertension and it has not been proven that lasix helps any of these conditions.  This side also argues that lasix allows horses that bleed to run better, and therefore weakens the thoroughbred breed because it allows horses who are prone to bleeding to pass on this trait.  Though the anti-lasix side has a lot of logic to back it up it is the pro-lasix side of the debate that has science behind them. The pro-lasix side of the argument is greatly based of a study from South Africa.  This study proved for the first time that lasix is effective in treating exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.  This is caused by a horses intestines swinging when a horse is running and hitting the lungs in an offbeat.  If the intestines swing into the lungs when the diaphragm is expanded then the lungs are compressed and capillaries and blood vessels hemorrhage leading the bleeding in the lungs.  This study followed 167 horses for two races, against the similar company and in similar conditions.  These horses received lasix before one race and placebo before another.  The results showed that horses who got lasix were 3 to 11 times less likely to bleed.  This study also proved that if a horse bled due to EIPH the first time and then received lasix they were 2/3 less likely to bleed in the next race showing that lasix can help horses that already have a history of bleeding.  The lasix debate is a complex one but now there is science to back up the use of lasix in horses with EIPH. As the US looks toward banning race day medications (lasix)  to become more competitive in the world of racing they will now be forced to question whether race day medication is a necessity.   So now I ask you to do the same after reading both sides of the argument what side are you on?

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