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Inbred Horses Help Scientists Identify IBH Gene Locations

Researchers studied a group of related Exmoor ponies to find the chromosomes that could carry IBH-related genes.
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Inbred Horses Help Scientists Identify IBH Gene Locations
Individual Exmoor ponies are genetically similar to each other as a result of a severe genetic bottleneck (narrow breeding base) during the second world war. | Photo: iStock
Researchers have gotten closer to understanding the genomics of insect bite hypersensitivity (IBH, also known as “sweet itch”) in horses. By studying a population of inbred horses, scientists have honed in on areas of equine chromosomes that could carry the genes for IBH.

Two “regions of interest” in Chromosome 8 could contribute to the condition that causes itchy skin reactions to insect bites, based on findings from a group of Exmoor ponies, said Brandon Velie, BSc, MSc, PhD, researcher in the Department of Animal Breeding and Genetics at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, in Uppsala.

However, the findings are only a contributing link to solving the complex puzzle of equine IBH, Velie said.

“IBH is a very complex disease that is most likely the result of multiple genes across multiple chromosomes,” he told The Horse. “Our study of Exmoor ponies is just a small step toward truly understanding the complex genetic basis for this disease. Only through additional research in other breeds will we be able to combat and, with any luck, prevent this disease long

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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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