In 2006, a team of scientists from across the world began the sequencing of the horse genome, building on the previous Horse Genome Project, which lasted 10 years, in which preliminary maps of the horse genome were created. The project, funded by the Human Genome Project, cost $15 million and involved 33 institutions around the world, including the Massachusetts Broad Institute, the University of Kentucky’s Department of Veterinary Science and the College of Veterinary Medicine at University of Minnesota. The project’s outcome was the complete sequence of the horse genome, which amounts to almost 3 billion DNA base pairs.
The medical benefits to horses of the sequencing can not be over-stated – since many diseases are caused by gene mutations or alterations in gene expression, including muscle diseases, orthopedic diseases, recurrent airway disease, metabolic syndrome, colic, laminitis, and immune-mediated diseases. According to the University of Minnesota’s College of Veterinary Medicine, the research will also provide new insights into behavioral disorders, resistance and susceptibility to infectious diseases, and performance traits.
"The sequencing of the equine genome and the publication of this paper in the prestigious journal Science is an important advance for veterinary medicine as well as human health," says Trevor Ames, dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine of the University of Minnesota.
The DNA used in the study was from a horse called Twilight, a Thoroughbred mare at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, N.Y. Researchers obtained the DNA from a small sample of the horse’s blood. The research is published in a paper titled "Genome Sequence, Comparative Analysis, and Population Genetics of the Domestic Horse" in the November issue of the journal Science.