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Horse Chips

Researchers at Ohio State University created the first DNA gene chip that contains thousands of the genes for a horse. It houses more than 3,200 expressed horse genes on a sliver of glass about the size of a postage stamp.

When the researchers began developing this chip, only 200 horse genes were known.
The chip allows researchers to scan individual horses genes at once to see which ones are active in a certain situation. For example, drug companies gene chips to predict how a particular drug will affect an animal.
The Affymetrix horse gene chip, created at Ohio State University.

Since their invention nearly two decades ago, gene chips have revolutionized some basic approaches to research. Having a representative gene chip for a large animal leads to better accuracy in studying human disease. Commercial gene chips are also available for humans, mice, rats, rice plants and a number of microorganisms.

Data derived from the equine gene chip could give researchers insight into gene expression for specific equine and human diseases and conditions. For example, gene chips let researchers see how thousands of genes respond to an illness. This information can be used clinically to study disease in horses and in translational research from horse to human.

"The closer we can demonstrate that an animal model really mimics a human disease, the better off we are," said Alicia Bertone, the professor of veterinary clinical sciences who led Ohio State's efforts in developing the equine gene chip.

Horses are often used as models for orthopedic diseases, such as osteoarthritis and osteochondrosis a disease that inhibits bone growth.

The equine gene chip can also be used to identify horse diseases such as equine protozoal myelitis (EPM), a debilitating neurological disease. Also, testing a drug or other therapy is typically done in large animals, such as horses, dogs and cats, before being tested on humans.

"More accurate animal models mean we'll spend less money on and use fewer animals for finding cures," Bertone said. "Billions of dollars are invested in developing drugs that work really well in mice but fail in larger animal models and humans."

The new equine chip includes genes that regulate cell death, the cell cycle, cell signaling and development. The cost of the chip is around $350 to $450.

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