New Targets for Sarcoid Therapy

Ask a roomful of horse people if they’ve ever seen a sarcoid, and you’ll probably see a bunch of hands rise, and many knowing nods or eyerolls of owners who have dealt with these frustrating, usually benign tumors. Sarcoids are the most common

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Ask a roomful of horse people if they’ve ever seen a sarcoid, and you’ll probably see a bunch of hands rise, and many knowing nods or eyerolls of owners who have dealt with these frustrating, usually benign tumors. Sarcoids are the most common skin tumor of equids for which there is currently no universally effective treatment, according to Zhengqiang Yuan, PhD, a research scientist in veterinary pathological sciences at the University of Glasgow’s veterinary school in Scotland. Yuan and his research colleagues have made inroads into understanding sarcoids better at the genetic level and identifying novel targets for treating the annoying masses. He described the group’s research at the 46th British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Congress, held in Edinburgh, Scotland, in September 2007.

Sarcoids resemble warts, some of which grow very slowly, spontaneously disappear, or are more aggressive and invasive. They can appear anywhere, and all ages and breeds of horses can have them. You’re most likely to see sarcoids around the head (in the regions of the ears, eyelids, and mouth), under the belly, and in areas of scar tissue from a wound or surgery.

Yuan noted that it’s widely accepted that bovine papillomavirus (BPV), predominantly Type 1, is the main causative agent, but he said little is known about how the horse’s cells respond to BPV-1 infection. He and his colleagues compared the gene expression of BPV-1-infected fibroblasts (cells responsible for forming connective tissues)–both experimentally infected cells and those from naturally formed sarcoids–with normal equine fibroblasts (controls).

They found that a subset of genes was modified by BPV-1 in both the experimental and natural sarcoid cells as compared to the controls. These genes with altered expression patterns could be filed under five groups: genes responsible for cellular transformation, apoptosis (cell self-destruction), inflammation and immunity, signaling pathways, and structure. Yuan said this "broad array of biological pathways" will help researchers better understand the disease and further investigate the genes causing it

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Stephanie L. Church, Editorial Director, grew up riding and caring for her family’s horses in Central Virginia and received a B.A. in journalism and equestrian studies from Averett University. She joined The Horse in 1999 and has led the editorial team since 2010. A 4-H and Pony Club graduate, she enjoys dressage, eventing, and trail riding with her former graded-stakes-winning Thoroughbred gelding, It Happened Again (“Happy”). Stephanie and Happy are based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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