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"Gene doping" or GMO race horses?

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  • "Gene doping" or GMO race horses?

    Interesting article from the BH on international gene doping.

    First time I'd heard the term 'gene doping' and sure was not aware of this as an issue in horses although I can see how it could be problematic in engineering the faster/better race horse.

    Was interesting in seeing if any of you more closely connected to the industry (rather than me just sitting on the couch watching TVG ) if you've heard this expressed as a potential issue? Would this concern you?

    Overall GMO doesn't concern me as most living things are genetic modifications at some point in their evolution. But, I could see how artificially getting that right combination of genes to make the faster horse might be problematic. There really wouldn't be, at this point in time at least, an easy way to look at an individuals DNA and determine if it was artificially or naturally genetically modified.
    Your life is made of 2 dates and a dash; make the most of the dash.

  • #2
    I know almost nothing about the subject and that article leaves me with more questions than answers. Is the implication that this genetic modification is happening now, somewhere? Or is it a concern for the future? And is there really such a thing as a "genetic medication" that can engineer changes to a horse's subsequent offspring? Yikes.


    • Original Poster

      LaurieB, that's why I was asking here. My exposure is TVG (for what that's worth) and reading things like BH or Paulick's Report or DRF.

      No, I didn't do more searching but probably should.

      A 'genetic medication' is kind of a weird term also. I am not a scientist but have done a bit more "research" on plant GMOs vs animal. We do artificially make genetic modifications to plants to have specific characteristics... disease resistance, flavor, etc.

      Might also cross post this in Off Course to hit a wider base as, while this article is race horse specific and a greater concern potentially to the betting public, is it a big deal in other areas of equestrian activities where betting isn't a component?
      Last edited by Where'sMyWhite; Oct. 10, 2018, 12:17 PM.
      Your life is made of 2 dates and a dash; make the most of the dash.


      • #4
        I hated the article as well. Seemed quick-written, no history on where and why this article suddenly came about

        The Thoroughbred industry is very archaic as far as reproduction goes. Only live cover. No AI permitted at all. I find it hard to believe that the TB would be influenced at all in "gene doping" or gene modifying given the current stance on AI in the industry. They cannot flush TB mares, fertilize and then re-implant so what makes them think that gene modifying is going to become the norm in the TB? It is not even a process widely used in production animals mainly because of the sheer cost to do it. This isn't something that could be done in third world racing countries

        I guess I am not entirely understanding how gene modification plays any threat against the racing industry


        • #5
          yes, gene modification is practiced worldwide in Universities for studies in animals. It's an ever evolving science. It is more widely used in crops because of the sheer scale of that industry for both biofuel and food. It's big business and its backed by big business companies who can afford to put forth the capital to do it and gain approval to do it for food. Crops are more easily modified to pest resistance and the like whereas animals have much more that affect them environmental, in terms of disease, in terms of genetics, conditioning, management etc. Over time, no different than breeding animals, farmers have created hybrid crops by making educated crosses to produce crops that are more drought tolerant, more pest resistant, disease resistant, etc. But gene modification has allowed them to take things a step further: round-up ready corn, pest resistant corn, etc.

          The one thing that gene mod is good for is eliminating problem genes. It's already being researched for application in humans (we can potentially eradicate problem genes that produce disabilities and diseases)

          In horses, it could potentially eliminate a lot of the problem genetic disorders appearing in many breeds (QH's)

          Could it produce a faster racehorse? ehhhh, I err on the side of caution here. Horses can only be so fast, their bodies and build and species, the laws of science, only allow an equine to attain a certain peak performance. Same with humans. this is why the vast majority of horses run no faster today than they did 70 years ago. It is not just the gene that allows horses to run fast, to jump high, to go far, etc. Its the culmination of many things... Genes, training, conditioning, feed, age, ....and luck.

          I see this article setting off a lot of un-needed mass-hysteria since the industry is already highly regulated as far as repro goes.


          • #6
            The authorities are looking at the not too far distant future. If genetic diseases like hemophilia or sickle cell can be cured in humans by the injection of stem cells carrying a "corrective" gene, and there is ongoing research on this, there is no reason to believe that this technology (or something similar) won't trickle down into TBs at some point to address (say) the oxygen carrying capacity of blood.
            "I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay."
            Thread killer Extraordinaire


            • #7
              Originally posted by vineyridge View Post
              The authorities are looking at the not too far distant future. If genetic diseases like hemophilia or sickle cell can be cured in humans by the injection of stem cells carrying a "corrective" gene, and there is ongoing research on this, there is no reason to believe that this technology (or something similar) won't trickle down into TBs at some point to address (say) the oxygen carrying capacity of blood.
              Because of the restrictions the Jockey Club places on TB reproduction, anyone who wanted to breed a genetically modified TB would have to figure out a way to do so secretly. So they wouldn't be able to use a big equine hospital that has the staff and know-how to do the job. Are the farms going to hire those specialist vets to work in their own labs? Maybe, but I can't imagine that news like that would stay secret for long.


              • Original Poster

                Is the practice of live cover only for TBs pretty much a world-wide practice or are there counties that will register TBs not from live cover?
                Your life is made of 2 dates and a dash; make the most of the dash.


                • #9
                  To be registered with the Jockey Club requires breeding live cover. To enter races, horses must be registered with the J.C. Theoretically someone could breed A.I. however they couldn't race.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Where'sMyWhite View Post
                    Is the practice of live cover only for TBs pretty much a world-wide practice or are there counties that will register TBs not from live cover?
                    At this point it is world wide. There was a lawsuit in Australia fighting for AI in the name of genetic diversity but the outcome was put your mare on a plane if you want to breed her to a sire outside of Australia.
                    McDowell Racing Stables

                    Home Away From Home


                    • #11
                      Just applying my rudimentary knowledge of the genetic modification process, I would think with the volume of DNA data on thoroughbreds that "gene doping" could be easy to catch and prevent once a problem is identified and technology develops. Identify the sections of the genome that could potentially be modified with advantageous results and compare that to what is genetically available from the parents.

                      Of course, the challenge lies in the potential for "cherry picking" genes from sire and dam in the future. But my gut instinct is there would be a lot of tells if that was happening.
                      Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                      • #12
                        Ain't that "live cover" restriction great? In so many ways.


                        • Original Poster

                          Originally posted by Texarkana View Post
                          Of course, the challenge lies in the potential for "cherry picking" genes from sire and dam in the future. But my gut instinct is there would be a lot of tells if that was happening.
                          I am, by no means, a scientist but I though this "cherry picking" is a simplistic view of what artificially genetically modified organisms are, no? Pick specific desirable genes and stuff them into the cells of another organism (again, thinking more of plants but would apply to animals as well).

                          Have an organism that is resistant to a disease? Determine the gene and start artificially creating "new" DNA for generations of that artificially engineered organism. It could have happened naturally that the disease resistant gene ended up in the DNA of the crop that also tastes good but why not help it along?

                          Seems it could be the same for a race horse... take that speed/sprinter or turf or router speed gene and insert it in a horse with good feet rather than hope that speed gene ends up in combination with a horse with good feet.

                          I also think plants are a bit easier as 'cloning' or mass production of the desirable DNA is much more appealing than in some animals (cattle cloning might be desirable for meat or milk production). Having a starting gate full of chestnuts with no white might look a bit funny

                          Yes, I think the live cover restriction will definitely slow down this concern. I thought the article was a bit strange when I read it as I'd never seen this considered a potential problem before; which is why I asked here to see if anyone else had heard that this was a concern.

                          Sounds like 'no'
                          Your life is made of 2 dates and a dash; make the most of the dash.