Insight for humans from horse genome sequence

11 November 2009

The first complete genome sequence of the domestic horse, Equus caballus, has been produced by an international team of researchers. Besides being of obvious interest for evolutionary biology and veterinary science, the researchers say that the 2.7 billion base-pair horse genome is also relevant for the study of human disease. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh of the Horse Genome Project at the US Broad Institute of MIT said: "Horses and humans suffer from similar illnesses, so identifying the genetic culprits in horses promises to deepen our knowledge of disease in both organisms" (see ScienceDaily news).

There are reportedly more than 80 hereditary diseases in horses with similarities to human disorders, including musculoskeletal, neuromuscular, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases (see press release). The research was partly funded by the National Human Genome Research Institute.

Meanwhile, as sequencing costs continue to fall, an international consortium of researchers have launched the Genome 10K Project, an initiative intended to create a ‘zoo’ of genomes from 10,000 vertebrate species to inform the study of evolution (see press release). Perhaps some of these genome sequences might also have relevance to human health.