Expression of select mRNA in Thoroughbreds with catastrophic racing injuries

Allen E. Page, Emma Adam, Rick Arthur, Virginia Barker, Forrest Franklin, Ron Friedman, Timothy Grande, Michael Hardy, Bruce Howard, Emma Partridge, Matthew Rutledge, Mary Scollay, John C. Stewart, Alina Vale, David W. Horohov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: The ability to identify horses at risk for catastrophic injuries continues to be a pressing issue for the racing industry, especially given recent events in North America. Objectives: Since most catastrophic injuries occur in areas of existing pathology and this pathology is likely to elicit an inflammatory response, it was hypothesised that analysis of messenger RNA (mRNA) expression would detect significant changes in select genes in horses at risk for a catastrophic injury. Study design: Prospective cohort study. Methods: Five racing jurisdictions across the United States participated in this study. A total of 686 Tempus® RNA Blood Tube samples were collected for mRNA analysis from 107 catastrophically injured horses, as well as from noninjured horses sampled either prerace (n = 374) or postrace (n = 205). A subset of horses (n = 37) were sampled both prerace and postrace for analysis of expression changes during the postrace period. Results: Of 21 genes analysed via RT-qPCR, the expression of 12 genes (ALOX5AP, CD14, IL-10, IL-1β, IL-6, IL-8, MMP1, PTGS2, TLR4, TNFα, TNFSF13B and VEGFA) changed significantly within 45 minutes after a race and were excluded. Of the remaining nine genes (BMP-2, IGF-1, IL1RN, MMP2, MMP9, Osteoprotegrin, RANKL, SAA1 and TGFβ), three genes (IGF-1, IL1RN and MMP2) were found to be significantly different between catastrophically injured and noninjured horses using multiple logistic regression modelling. Receiver operating characteristic analysis of models, which included mRNA expression, demonstrated sensitivities from 76%-82% (95% CI: 67%-93%) and specificities from 84%-88% (95% CI: 71%-94%) at the Youden Index. Main limitations: Samples were collected as soon as possible postinjury (within 30 minutes). Conclusions: Analysis of mRNA expression of specific genes in the future may be considered as an economical, accessible and noninvasive means by which horses at risk for catastrophic injury can be identified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-73
Number of pages11
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This project was funded, in its entirety, by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission's Equine Drug Research Council. The authors recognise and thank Dr Kathleen Picciano of the New Jersey Racing Commission, as well as the staff of the participating racing jurisdictions and tracks for their assistance with the collection of samples for this project. The authors also thank Dr Arnold Stromberg for his assistance with portions of the statistical analyses.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 EVJ Ltd

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Equine


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