Genomewide Study Identifies Arabian Horses’ Risk for EMS

Researchers say this seems to confirm lore that some horse breeds are more susceptible to EMS than others.
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ems in arabians
Specific regions on FAM174A correlated with elevated circulating insulin levels, triglycerides (fats), body condition score, and laminitis—traits associated with an EMS diagnosis. | Photo: iStock
Nature vs. nurture. It’s a topic that’s been at the center of debate not only in the field of psychology but also when it comes to conditions such as equine metabolic syndrome (EMS). Do horses develop it due to genetics (nature) or management practices (nurture)?

A research team from the University of Florida and Cornell University say both play an important role in EMS development. But they’ve recently carried out a genomewide study that’s allowed them to link a specific gene to EMS. If this gene is identified early enough, they say, it could help prevent this commonly diagnosed condition that has potentially deadly effects.

“Our preliminary work seemed to confirm horseman’s lore that some breeds of horse were clearly more susceptible to EMS,” said Samantha Brooks, PhD, assistant professor of equine physiology at the University of Florida, in Gainesville.

The researchers recruited 64 Arabian horses (Population 1) that, due to suspected EMS, had recently undergone diagnostic testing of fasting plasma insulin and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) levels at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine Animal Health Diagnostic Center endocrinology laboratory. Horse owners voluntarily submitted a brief medical history, body measurements, pedigree, photos, and hair or blood samples for their horses

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Casie Bazay is a freelance and young adult writer, as well as a certified equine acupressure practitioner. She also hosts a blog, The Naturally Healthy Horse. Once an avid barrel racer, she now enjoys giving back to the horses who have given her so much.

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