The Equine DNA Roadmap

Find out what the equine genome can tell us about our horses and preventing genetic disease.
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The Equine DNA Roadmap
In most DNA tests, genetic material is extracted from a blood, hair, or tissue sample. | Photo: Stephanie L. Church/The Horse

The equine genome takes us on a journey from prehistoric times to a future of identifying and manipulating individual genes.

“Genome mapping.” It’s a phrase we hear a lot in the 21st century, an age of scientific advances the likes of invisibility cloaks and bioengineered body parts. But what exactly is this road through a species’ heritage, and what do the points along the map tell us about our animals and ourselves?

Before we answer these questions, here’s a quick refresher on DNA in general: Deoxyribonucleic acid is a double-stranded molecule that looks much like a spiraling ladder (Remember those charts on the wall in biology class?). First described in 1953 by Drs. James Watson, Francis Crick, and Rosalind Franklin, the DNA molecule’s double helix contains all of the information that makes up every living organism.  

DNA is comprised of four nucleotide bases (proteins): adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T). A pairs with T and C with G across the “ladder.” (Is it all coming back to you now, like a 9th grade biology test?) The DNA provides the narrative for every cell in the body, with sections (genes) coding for specific traits. The collection of genes that describes an entire organism is called the genome

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Written by:

Christy Corp-Minamiji, DVM, practices large animal medicine in Northern California, with particular interests in equine wound management and geriatric equine care. She and her husband have three children, and she writes fiction and creative nonfiction in her spare time.

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