Identification of Novel mRNA Targets in Catastrophically Injured Thoroughbred Racehorses Using RNA Sequencing

Grants and Contracts Details


The occurrence of injuries during training and racing is a devastating event that the racing industry is trying to prevent. While there has been intense effort to develop techniques to identify individuals at risk for injury, these approaches, thus far, have been limited in their success. We have developed an alternative approach for identifying horses at risk for injury and are conducting a large-scale study to determine this approach’s utility in the early detection of an impending CI. To date, at least one marker utilized in this study has shown promise in its ability to distinguish horses at risk for a CI from non-injured control horses. Data from this study is also being used to examine the relationship between pre-existing inflammation and specific catastrophic injuries in racing Thoroughbreds. With the increasing ease of access, as well as diminishing costs and a better understanding of manipulating ‘big data’, RNA-sequencing has become an outstanding, state of the art tool. We hypothesize that by using RNA-sequencing, we will identify novel markers that can segregate Thoroughbred racehorses with a potentially catastrophic (life-ending) injury from non-injured horses prior to other non-invasive means of detection. To perform this study, we propose to use existing samples from our ongoing CI study, currently involving 5 racing jurisdictions across North America. In total, blood samples from 40 CI horses, along with 160 non-injured horses will be analyzed. An additional 40 horses representing multiple racing jurisdictions will be sampled both pre-race and post-race to help identify markers that change due to exercise alone. Applying cutting-edge RNA-sequencing to our existing and ongoing samples will identify markers that are expressed differently between CI and non-injured horses. Following this analysis, 60 markers of interest will be selected to develop a panel that may provide an economical, sensitive, and non-invasive tool for detecting horses at risk of catastrophic injury.
Effective start/end date7/1/206/30/22


  • KY Horse Racing Commission: $132,228.00


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