April 2004 Issue of The Horse Reports Origin of Mysterious Disease Found in Quarter Horses is Discovered
Horse Health Press Release
LEXINGTON, KY - The April 2004 issue of The Horse magazine, the leading monthly equine health care magazine, will reveal in an exclusive news report that Poco Bueno, a champion Quarter Horse, has been identified as the sire line associated with the brutal affliction known as hyperelastosis cutis (HC) or hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia (HERDA). The news report also appeared on the magazine's web site: www.TheHorse.com on Friday, February 27, citing research by Dr. Ann Rashmir, associate professor of surgery and head of the Hyperelastosis Cutis Research Program at Mississippi State University, and Dr. Nena Winand, a geneticist and assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Medicine at Cornell University.
Hyperelastosis cutis (HC) basically carries with it a death sentence for Quarter Horses affected by the disease. Currently there is no cure for HC.
When a horse has HC, there is a lack of adhesion within the dermis, the deep layer of skin, due to a collagen defect. Think of it like glue holding the skin layers together, only with HC, the glue is inferior. Because the layers are not held firmly together, they separate. When the horse is ridden under saddle or suffers trauma to the skin, the outer layer often splits or separates from the deeper layer, or it can tear off completely. It rarely heals without disfiguring scars. New damaged areas arise continuously, sometimes even without obvious trauma.
There are cases where horses with HC have lived to a fairly old age, says Dr. Rashmir, but great care must be taken to prevent trauma that can rip the skin. Sunburn can also be a concern. In dramatic cases, says Dr. Rashmir, the skin can split along the back and even roll down the sides, with the horse literally being skinned alive. Generally speaking, she says, the average lifespan for an HC horse is two to four years.
The disease first surfaced in 1971. Today as more and more breedings double up on the Poco Bueno line through the mating of close-up and distant cousins, more and more cases of HC are showing up.
"Because of the popularity of sires that are (or were) carriers and the use of assisted reproductive technologies (i.e., shipped semen), it is likely that the HC gene is present in thousands of horses," says Dr. Winand.
The American Quarter Horse Association is concerned about HC, says Gary Griffith, executive director of registration for AQHA. Griffith says the announcement by Rashmir and Winand, to his knowledge, is the first public revelation concerning the Poco Bueno bloodline being the primary reservoir for the HC gene.
Griffith also says that AQHA is funding research at the University of California, Davis, (which is also working with Rashmir). That group is attempting to identify the gene responsible for HC. Hopefully, such research, Griffith says, will provide a simple genetic test that will identify HC carriers. "All of the information stemming from research into this problem will be passed on to the appropriate (AQHA) committees for consideration and action," he notes.
A check of the 2004 Quarter Horse News Stallion Register, Dr. Rashmir says, reveals that out of the top 100 cutting horse stallions, lifetime, based on earnings of offspring, 14 are known HC carriers.
Dr. Winand says that another study, based on statistics published in the 2004 Quarter Horse News Stallion Register, reveals that between 1998 and 2002, some 1,241 offspring of HC carrier stallions were sold at public auction for $26,749,650. One-half of those offspring, based on genetic law of averages, she says, also are carriers.
"Many of these horses have been, and are, wonderful athletes and, though they are carriers, have no outward signs of the disease," says Dr. Rashmir. "Breeders are going to have to take responsibility for their decisions and not breed known carrier to known carrier."
To read the entire article, visit: www.TheHorse.com/qf.asp?fid=5037
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