Sunday, May 16, 2010

Get Involved in the Equine Metabolic Syndrome Research Project

The following info came from Michigan State. I thought some of you may be interested in this, so thought I would pass it along.

Nichol Schultz DVM and Molly McCue DVM, MS, PhD, DACVIM

The Equine Genetics research group at the University of Minnesota-College of Veterinary Medicine is collaborating with Drs. Ray Geor (Michigan State) and Nicholas Frank (University of Tennessee) to investigate the disease occurrence and genetics of equine metabolic syndrome (EMS). EMS is a devastating disease characterized by three main features: obesity, insulin resistance, and laminitis. Certain breeds or individual horses are predisposed to EMS, and are often referred to as "easy keepers.” These horses are very efficient at utilizing calories and often require a lower plane of nutrition to maintain body weight than other horses. The difference in EMS susceptibility among horses managed under similar conditions is likely the result of a genetic predisposition.

The goal of this investigation is to better understand the role of breed, gender, age, environment (diet and exercise) and genetics in EMS. The success of the study depends on the collection of data from as many horses with EMS as possible; therefore, assistance of horse owners and their veterinarians is critical. To identify the underlying genetic susceptibility to EMS, genetic marker information will be compared between horses with EMS and non-EMS control horses. The long-term goal is to use these EMS genetic markers to detect horses susceptible to EMS and laminitis before they have clinical signs. Once susceptible horses are identified, management practices can be initiated to better protect them from developing disease.

Participation in the study involves 3 steps:

The first step is to fill out a brief, 10 question online survey located at Within approximately one month the owner will be notified if the horse is deemed an appropriate candidate to proceed to “step two”. While not all horses will be chosen to proceed to step 2, the information provided will still be used in the initial descriptive study of EMS.
If the horse is selected as a potential candidate, the owner will be sent a link to a second online survey requesting additional information about the horse and its management along with information about another horse on the property not suspected of having EMS to serve as a “control.” An ideal control horse will be of similar age and breed, have no history of laminitis, not be considered overweight, and not showing signs of Cushing’s (delayed shedding, increased drinking/urination). The owner will also be asked to submit several simple body measurements and digital photos for both horses.
Approximately 6-8 months following the second survey, owners of horses selected for inclusion in the genetic study will be asked to work with their veterinarian to provide a blood sample which we will analyzed free of charge for glucose, triglyceride, non-esterified fatty acid, and insulin concentration (both the owner and veterinarian will receive notification of the results). A portion of the blood sample will be used for DNA isolation and stored for genetic research.
Horse owners assisting in the project will be providing information essential to further understanding EMS and ultimately determining ways to better manage and treat horses suffering from EMS. To learn more about the equine metabolic research project and how you can get involved, please visit:

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