MTHA Board Supports Participation in Biomarker Study

The Maryland Thoroughbred Horsemen’s Association has given its support to a research project designed to measure multiple equine inflammatory and anti-inflammatory biomarkers.

Dr. David Horohov at the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky laboratory has developed a method by which a single blood sample can be used to measure the biomarkers. The study thus far has involved Thoroughbred racehorses, and published results have indicated the blood testing could be useful in determining a horse’s fitness or risk of injury, according to a University of Kentucky memorandum.

Kentucky and California already are participating in the research, which was recommended for funding by the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Mike Hopkins, Executive Director of the Maryland Racing Commission and current Chairman of the Association of Racing Commissioners International, was asked if Maryland could participate, so he brought the proposal before the MTHA Board of Directors at its Aug. 28 meeting.

“The purpose is to examine messenger (ribonucleic acid) for inflammatory and anti-inflammatory biomarkers,” Hopkins said. “They hope that after two years they can develop a tool that could be used with a PCR instrument to give an indication of excess biomarkers and maybe project (the likelihood) of (catastrophic injury).” Hopkins noted the study relies on “non-disclosure,” meaning the blood samples wouldn’t be publicly identified. The motion approved by the MTHA Board states that information gleaned from sample collection only be used for the biomarker study.

There is no cost to Maryland horsemen for the study, which entails collection of samples from the first two finishers in a race, another post-race sample, and a pre-race TCO2 sample. Samples would be taken from catastrophically injured horses and non-injured horses.

The University of Kentucky said that “to protect the identity of all horses and trainers, as well necropsy findings, (the university) will executive a non-disclosure agreement with any participating jurisdiction which requests one. While the goal of this study is to publish findings of the work, no identifying information regarding horses, owners or trainers would be included in the publication.”

Researchers hope to obtain about 150 samples in total from all participating jurisdictions within a two-year period. They said that given preliminary data and reports indicating pre-existing conditions are a factor in injury, they expect horses with catastrophic injuries will have “significantly elevated inflammatory markers” compared with non-injured horses.

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