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Study asks whether the equine industry needs a biobank

1 February 2012

Laura Corbin is a final year PhD student at The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh. She is working with the British Equestrian Federation to establish whether or not an equine biobank is needed to enable the horse industry to make the most of advancing genomic technologies in order to combat disease.

Grazing horses. Courtesy of The Roslin Institute
Grazing horses. Courtesy of The Roslin Institute

During the course of her PhD, which is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Biosciences Knowledge Transfer Network and the British Equestrian Federation, Laura has been exploring the potential use of this new technology in tackling common complex diseases, focussing on osteochondrosis.

The past decade has seen phenomenal progress being made in the field of genetics, including the mapping of genes, identification of gene variants and sequencing of DNA.

The most significant development in horse genetics was the release of the draft genome sequence of the horse in 2007 (see Horse Genome Project). This was followed by the creation of new sequencing technology that allows the characterisation of each horse's genome in great detail.

Laura, who is supervised by Prof. John Woolliams, says, "In order to further exploit new genotyping technologies to help understand complex traits and diseases, large collections of DNA samples from well-characterised animals are needed."

Laboratories can now produce and cope with huge quantities of genetic data, but one of the principal limitations to progress at this time is a lack of samples and associated animal data.

In response to this challenge, the medical genetics community has begun establishing national and international biobanks, e.g. UK Biobank, Generation Scotland. Biobanks are organised collections of biological samples and associated data.

Laura is inviting anyone with an interest in the equine industry to complete a questionnaire, the results of which will provide an indication of the need for an equine biobank. The questionnaire is available at www.roslin.ed.ac.uk/john-woolliams/equine-biobank-project .

Prior to studying at The Roslin Institute Laura gained a BSc (Hons) degree in Equine Science and she also has several years experience working directly in the horse industry, both as a groom and as an instructor.

To find out more about the project and to have your say about whether we need a UK equine biobank, visit www.roslin.ed.ac.uk/john-woolliams/equine-biobank-project .

ENDS

Notes to editors

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336

About the Roslin Institute

The Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh received a total of £8.5M investment from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in 2010-11. The Institute undertakes research within the framework of BBSRC Institute Strategic Programmes focussed on the health and welfare of animals, and applications of basic animal sciences in human and veterinary medicine, the livestock industry and food security. www.roslin.ed.ac.uk

About the British Equestrian Federation (BEF)

The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) is the national governing body for horse sports in the UK, affiliated to the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), the international governing body of equestrian sports. It exists to provide leadership, vision and purpose in steering the direction of equestrianism. Its patron is HRH the Duchess of Cornwall. www.bef.co.uk

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk .
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes .

External contact

Tara Womersley, Press and PR Office, University of Edinburgh

Tel: 0131 650 9836
mob: 07791 355804