Speed gene test could revolutionise throughbred breeding

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  • Racehorse breeders can now breed for speed following groundbreaking scientific research that has identified the “speed gene” in racehorses.

    The research, led by leading horse genomics researcher Dr Emmeline Hill and funded by Science Foundation Ireland, is the first academic programme in the world to apply DNA technology to thoroughbred racing performance.

    Dr Hill, alongside renowned Irish racehorse trainer and breeder Jim Bolger, has now launched a biotech company called Equinome to offer a test for the gene commercially.

    The speed gene — known as MSTN — regulates myostatin protein that controls muscle cell production.

    There are three different variants of the myostatin gene a horse can inherit — TT, CC and CT.

    Horses with the TT version develop muscles later in life. Horses with the CC version develop their muscles earlier.

    The test can reveal whether the horse is best suited to racing over short, middle or middle-to-long distances.

    “Breeders currently rely on combining successful bloodlines together, hoping that the resulting foal will have a winning combination of genes,” explained Dr Hill. “Until now, whether those winning genes have been inherited could only be known by observing the racing and breeding success of a horse.

    “Using the Equinome Speed Gene test it will now be possible to definitively know a horse’s genetic type within weeks of a sample being taken.

    “This will reduce much of the uncertainty that has been typically involved in selection, training and breeding decisions.”

    For more information, visit www.equinome.com

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