A research project funded by The Horse Trust has discovered how proteins in a horse's mucus change with the development of equine respiratory disease. The researchers are now investigating how these changes are regulated, which may enable the development of new treatments for this condition.
Respiratory problems are common in horses, with various surveys reporting that respiratory airway inflammation occurs in between 10 and 50 percent of competition and pleasure horses. Respiratory problems not only reduce the quality of a horse's life, but are also a common cause of exercise intolerance.
Equine respiratory problems are often associated with an accumulation of mucus in the horse's airways and with the mucus becoming more viscous and hard to clear.
Research that was given funding by the British charity The Horse Trust has shown that particular genes, known as mucins, regulate mucus proteins and undergo various changes in equine respiratory disease.
Professor Peter Clegg at the University of Liverpool (shown left), in collaboration with Dr David Thornton at the University of Manchester, both in Great Britain, led the research. It was found that horses with respiratory disease have higher levels of a particular mucin, known as Muc5b. A second mucin, Muc5AC, was also increased in respiratory disease, but was present in much lower levels than Muc5b. Alterations in both mucin genes, and their resultant proteins are likely to be a major cause of the increased viscosity of mucus in horses with respiratory disease.
Clegg discovered this change by collecting and examining both the respiratory secretions, and the cells that lined the airway from horses both with and without respiratory disease.
"Understanding how mucins change in respiratory disease is the first step in developing new treatments for this condition. Once we are able to find how these changes are regulated, we may be able to develop better treatments for equine respiratory disease," said Clegg.
Clegg also found that horses that produced high levels of mucin genes have increased numbers of goblet cells in their airways, indicating that a key regulatory step may be the actual production and development of the glandular cells, rather than the absolute production of the mucin proteins.
The next stage of The Horse Trust-funded research will look at how mucin levels are controlled and affected by treatment in vitro. The ability to affect mucin production and its viscosity would hugely improve the veterinary management of horses with all forms of respiratory disease, and ultimately improve the welfare of all types of horses
Clegg's research into horse mucins is to be submitted to the Equine Veterinary Journal and American Journal of Physiology.
by Fran Jurga | The Jurga Report at Equisearch.com
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