The first genome map of a horse is complete, providing scientists with a new set of tools for investigating equine disease, scientists at the Broad Institute, a part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) announced Wednesday (Feb. 7). To read the release click here.

According to Ernie Bailey, PhD, geneticist and professor of veterinary science at the University of Kentucky’s Gluck Equine Research Center, the finished map will allow researchers to identify genetic variation between horses and better understand how our equine management practices affect horses’ genetic expression.

Sequencing of the domestic horse genome began in 2006, and was built upon the 10-year collaborative effort of the Horse Genome Project (www.uky.edu/Ag/Horsemap), an international group of scientists hoping to use genomics to address important equine health issues. Scientists at the Broad Institute completed sequencing the horse last year, but the sequence was not organized. In effect, they found all the puzzle pieces but had not arranged them to create a picture. This week, the picture was completed.

“It’s just basically been a collection of 30,763,255 random DNA sequences in a database,” Bailey said. “They determined the relationships among the sequences and ordered them along the 32 pairs of horse chromosomes.

The completed gene map is currently available for researchers through the Broad Institute’s Web site, and will be placed on online browsers for easier access within the next couple of weeks.

Now that the completed map is available, Bailey said the information can be applied to studies of genetic expression as well as hereditary variation, leading to a new level of understanding of equine diseases