Akhal-Teke horses, a breed native to Turkmenistan, are known for their endurance, speed, intelligence and distinctive metallic sheen. This breed is also susceptible to a condition known as Naked Foal Syndrome, in which foals are born with almost no hair and scaly skin. Horses with the condition die between a few weeks old and 3 years old; it is not clear what causes their death. First seen in 1938, the number of Akal-Teke foals affected by the syndrome has increased steadily.
The research team included Drs. Anina Bauer, Monika Welle, Theresa Hiemesch, Markus Neuditschko, Iris Bachmann, Stefan Rieder, Sofia Mikko, Cecilia Penedo, Nadja Tarasova, Martina Vitková, Paola Roccabianca, Nicolò Sirtori, Tosso Leeb and Vidhya Jagannathan. The scientists feel they have identified the inherited monogenic autosomal recessive trait that causes the syndrome.
To find the cause of the syndrome, the international researchers sequenced two affected horses, two carriers and 75 control horses of other breeds. The determined that the genetic variant that caused the disease are on two segments of chromosomes 7 and 27. The researchers feel that their findings will enable for genetic testing that will allow breeders to avoid breeding that would cause the condition.
The study noted two cases of Naked Foal Syndrome, in which both foals were small for their ages. They also had no eyelashes and sparse, thin body hair, as well as mane and tail hairs that were spare or absent. The skin of both foals was dry and scaly, and scars and lesions were seen, possibly because both foals were missing the physical protection of a hair coat. The teeth and hooves were normal.
Researchers note that it is not known why affected foals have a shortened life expectancy; further research is necessary to characterize what leads to premature deaths in horses with Naked Foal Syndrome.
Read the full study here.
Read more at HorseTalk.
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