UK researchers looking into biomarkers that could help prevent racehorse deaths

UK research could find cause of racehorse fatality
Published: Oct. 10, 2023 at 12:43 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - University of Kentucky researchers have discovered biomarkers in a horse that could determine whether or not they are prone to injuries that could cost them their lives.

“I think there’s a solution out there to sustainable, safe racing,” said Dr. Allen Page, a veterinarian scientist at UK.

That solution could be closer than we think.

Dr. Page has been researching with his team how to indicate which racehorses are susceptible to life-threatening injuries. He says the indicator can be found in a horse’s blood.

“So, we’re using messenger RNA, which comes from blood, that’s where we’re getting it from, as a biomarker for injury risk,” said Page.

The blood samples they’re working with come from horses that have already sustained the same fatal injuries that this team is working to prevent.

“We can compare injured horses versus non-injured horses to see where those differences are as a danger signal, if you will, said Page.

He explained that in the past, this testing has been highly effective in indicating these injuries.

Typically, horses appear perfectly normal until they suffer one of these deadly injuries. Dr. Page says that the goal of this research is to allow them to get ahead of injuries instead of kicking the horses off the track.

“If a horse is at risk, we don’t think that that horse should be scratched. We think that should be looked at. We can keep those injuries from occurring. Maybe the horse needs some time off. Maybe we need to change something on the training, but we don’t get to the point where they have a potentially other career or life-ending injury,” Page said.

Page is hoping this research can contribute to a safer future for all horses.

“Going forward, I think the hope is that we are part of the solution,” said Page.

According to the Herald Leader, three horses died last spring at Keeneland, and 12 horses died at Churchill Downs. There is no common factor that has been identified in these deaths.