Icelandic horse gene a boost for breeders

Swedish research on the Icelandic horse has developed genetic test that may help breeders to select the best candidates for racing.

Beginning on Thursday, the DNA test will be available to the public, enabling buyers to look for animals with the best chances of success in harness racing, according to a report published this week in the Science journal.

The potential game changer comes as a result of recent findings by researchers in Sweden that pinpointed a gene – dubbed DMRT3 – in the Icelandic horse, a breed that has become famous for ‘pacing’, meaning all of the horse’s legs move simultaneously as it runs.

Research head Leif Andersson, from, from Uppsala University  at Sweden’s University of Agricultural Sciences, said his team analysed the genetic makeup of around 70 horses, about 40 of which were able to pace and 30 which were not. This enabled the researchers to identify a single key component present in all animals with the desired trait.

The discovery has also raised hopes among those studying spinal injuries and paralysis in humans. Mr Andersson explained to the AFP, “It’s an important discovery also for human medicine. It is a really critical discovery because we have found new basic knowledge about how the spinal cord controls the movement of the legs.”

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