Horse Gene Discovery Could Help in Human Asthma Relief

Research on RAO, or heaves, in horses could help in finding solutions for asthma in humans.
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A discovery by University of Guelph researchers should help in understanding how horses develop recurrent airway obstruction (RAO) and offers hope of potential solutions for people with asthma.

In a paper in a recent issue of BMC Genomics, the researchers discuss their discovery that horses have three copies of a gene normally found as a single copy in mammals. This gene, called secretoglobin family 1A member 1 (more simply referred to as SCGB-1A1), produces a protein secreted in large amounts in the airway.

RAO is a chronic inflammatory lung disease. Clinical signs of RAO in horses include coughing, increased respiratory effort (even at rest), nasal discharge but no fever, exercise intolerance, and the presence of a ‘heave line’ (a line running diagonally from the point of the hip forward to the lower edge of the ribs in the external abdominal oblique muscle caused by the persistently increased respiratory effort).

The researchers found that RAO-susceptible horses have much less SCGB1A1 protein in their airways, which enhances inflammation

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