'Marathon gene' makes picking racehorses a safer bet

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Washington, Feb 19 (ANI): Picking racehorses may now be a safer bet, thanks to a new research, which has resulted in the identification of a 'speed gene' in thoroughbreds.

According to researchers, the gene would enable thoroughbred owners to sort would-be sprinters from plodders.

Equinome, a horse genome sequencing company based in Ireland, has developed a new test to identify a horse's ideal racing distance based on the gene that encodes for muscle development.

"Human studies have found over 200 genes responsible for an individual's health and fitness," Discovery News quoted Emmaline Hill, Chairman of Equinome, as saying.

"We also expected a large number of genes would contribute to a horse's performance, so we were surprised when we identified one gene with such a large effect," Hill added.

Known as MSTN, the gene regulates myostatin, a protein that controls muscle cell production.

There are three different variants of the myostatin gene a horse can inherit: TT, CC and CT. Horses with the TT version develop muscles later in life. Horses with the CC version develop their muscles earlier.

To find the myostatin gene, Hill and his colleagues started with 179 race horses that were two years old.

They divided the horses into two groups based on their past professional racing performance over short and long distances.

The researchers then sequenced the DNA of all the horses and compared the results.

With one exception, all thoroughbred long distance race winners had the TT version of the gene. With no exceptions, all thoroughbred short distance race winners had the CC variant.

The team's findings were published in the journal PLoS One. (ANI)

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