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‘pot of gold at the end of the rainbow'

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djebel View Drop Down
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    Posted: 01 Aug 2008 at 3:55am
Geneticist on trail of ‘pot of gold at the end of the rainbow'




 

by Rachel Pagones
 
THE abilityto identify genes which, when ‘switched on' in response to exercise, influence a horse's racing ability, is “the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow”, said Dr Emmeline Hill, speaking at the genetics symposium, hosted by the Irish Thoroughbred Breeders'Association, on Tuesday.

Expanding on the statement, Dr Hill said the goal was to “find the genes that are associated with performance at rest, and then we can try to make predictions from unraced individuals as to how fast they can go”.

Hill, of University College, Dublin, is working on a five-year project funded by the Science Foundation Ireland President of Ireland Young Researcher Award, which she received in 2004. Because the project still has a year to run, Hill was unable to give many specific details of her research, but her general conclusion of where it is headed provoked a widespread ripple of response from the audience, in the Dunboyne Castle hotel in County Meath.

“We expect and hope that this information will aid to complement existing breeding programmes, and to improve the entire thoroughbred herd and reduce operation costs,” she said.

“And we hope also that one day the old mantra of ‘breed the best to the best and hope for the best' will become ‘breed the best to the best and test for the best'.”

Hill's research involves measuring chemical products created by genes in response to exercise, and comparing the amount of product to physical performance – for instance, the amount of lactate produced in a horse's blood compared to the rate of speed it reaches on a treadmill. One of the trickiest bits is to find the relevant genes among the 25,000 possibilities, and she is using some genes known to be associated with athletic performance in humans as candidates for research in the horse.
 
Her work is not quite the same as looking for that chimera, the ‘speed gene'. She is looking instead for variants of genes that, when prompted by physical exertion, confer an athletic advantage to the individual who has them.

“There's a common misconception when somebody says, ‘Does he have the gene'?.

Well, everybody has all of the genes,” Hill said. “Everybody has the 25,000 genes in the genome. It's the variant, whether you actually have that DNA difference in your genes, that we're talking about.”

She said her project has been greatly facilitated by the sequencing of the horse genome, carried out by the Broad Institute, part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, last year.

Competition among the science community to identify performance genes is heating up, she added.

However, she believes success will ultimately depend on who has access to sufficient samples from the elite racehorses to be used for genetic analysis. Access requires a strong working relationship with the thoroughbred industry.

Although performance-related genetic research has sometimes met with resistance from this community, Hill said the reaction to her work has been positive.

Hill, whose grandmother Charmian owned the legendary Dawn Run, and whose father Jeremy runs Monksgrange Stud in County Wexford, added: “I am very lucky to have support from some of the top players in the industry.”
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STRIKE WHILST THE IRON IS HOT

reductio ad absurdum

The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Run For Fun Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Aug 2008 at 4:03am
No offence djebel, but hasn't this allready been through the mill?
It's hard to soar with eagles...

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djebel View Drop Down
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote djebel Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01 Aug 2008 at 4:40am
No offence taken RFF, I am blowed if i can find the thread, i thought maybe i did not actually post it, but i did didn't i ?


STRIKE WHILST THE IRON IS HOT

reductio ad absurdum

The richest man is not he who has the most, but he who needs the least.

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