Laboratory Advances Improve Equine Doping Testing

Metabolomics and transcriptomics can provide a sort of “history” of drugs that have been in a horse’s body.

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Metabolomics and transcriptomics. Big words for finding really tiny quantities of really tiny substances in really big animals–and both enormously useful. The products of cutting-edge research, these high-tech techniques are on the verge of becoming the very latest in equine drug screening at high level events.

Using metabolomics and/or transcriptomics, laboratory analysts can get a sort of "history" of drugs that have been in a horse’s body–even if they’ve been completely eliminated already, according to Yves Bonnaire, PhD, director of France’s national horse racing industry laboratory (reference laboratory for the Fédération Equestre Internationale ). Bonnaire is also a member of the advisory council on prohibited substances for the International Federation of Horseracing Authorities and was a guest lecturer at the FEI NSAIDs congress in 2010.

Such "history" is not meant for heavy-duty policing of therapeutic drugs used during events; rather, it is aimed at detecting new doping agents that continue to cause effects on the horse even when none of the drug is left in the animal’s body, Bonnaire said during a presentation at the 2012 French Equine Research Day in Paris.

In particular, growth hormones and erythropoietine (EPO) have become significant challenges for laboratories, he said, as current detection techniques cannot give a positive reading on these drugs with exceedingly short half-lives (meaning they are eliminated rapidly from the body) if none of the drug is left to be detected

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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