Sunday, 29 April 2012

Thought for the day

"Entrenched belief is never altered by the facts".   

So true, so true; strongly held beliefs, however nonfactual they may be, rarely (if ever) are changed as the result of being exposed to the facts.  It is human nature to cling to what one believes in, for to challenge such beliefs can cause psychological harm in susceptible individuals.  

Sometimes it is considered more expedient to just accept what one is told, without challenging the status quo or the teller/s of the tale.  After all challenging one's beliefs requires introspection into many facets of the life one leads and that is way too scary for many people.

There is now much mis-information being spread 'out there' over the HWSS research.  Where people or organisations have a history of  distributing mis-information, do not expect them to be truthful in what they tell you with regards to their involvement in and support for the HWSS research project.  It was to be expected but still regretable; anything which challenges groups or individuals which exposes them to the risk of having their authority undermined, invariably results in shooting the messenger/s whilst at the same time trying to gain control over the message being delivered.  

To re-iterate once again the Connemara Pony Research Group is made up from a group of individuals who have been working together for just over one year now to get the scientific evidence to support:
  1. That there is a developmental problem in the hooves of some Connemara ponies, and,
  2. that this condition has a genetic cause
  3. Both of these points have now been incontrovertibly proven. As regular readers of this blog will be aware the laboratory is now awaiting the data analysis from the further series of arrays which have narrowed down the area of the genome, that needs to be studied in greater detail.
The Connemara Pony Research Group is not aligned with any breed society in anyway.  The research has been independently funded by donations sent directly to the Centre for Equine Health at the University of California (Davis) by many groups and individuals.  The research at the Bannasch Laboratory (UC Davis)  has received support, both moral and financial, from societies in North America and Northern Ireland only and the group publically acknowledges our thanks to them.

Interestingly enough, when the blog author went to attribute "Entrenched belief is never altered by the facts" researches failed to find an historical context in which this was used.   Perusal of various hard copy books of quotations to no avail and thence having to resort to google (and the ubiquitous wikipedia) linked this homily only to the authorship of one Dick Francis in his novel 'Straight'.  One has to wonder from whence he learnt this very salient truth, or whether he came to this conclusion himself  and just used it as a one-liner in his book.  Either way, the truth revealed by this statement is real.

For any of the blog readers 'out there' who are not acquainted with the novels of Dick Francis then dip your toes in the water.  Rip snorting good yarns based loosely around National Hunt Racing in the UK.  Of course they are formulaeic and I swear the heroes must all have 'superman' embroidered on their underpants as they always succeed in righting wrongs against terrible odds, but they are good reads.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Thought for the day

  • "All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." - Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)

  • "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." - Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Good news, bad news and interesting news

Good news update: blood samples from a further five HWSS affected ponies have been processed by the Bannasch Laboratory.  The analysis from these arrays is not yet complete, however early indications are that the areas of significance on the genome will be greatly reduced.  Instead of having a 'scattershot' approach to the molecular search, the specific area/s of interest are now being pinpointed.  This work cannot be hurried; we all need to await the outcome with grace and patience.

Bad news update: not the type one ever wishes to report.  The group has been notified that two HWSS affected fillies have recently been euthanased; both were profound cases of  HWSS.  These fillies were euthanased on humane grounds after advice from the owner's veterinarian and farrier.  The fillies had both been under the care of the care of these professionals since they were 3 months old.   

The veterinarian (under request from the owner) performed a post-mortem on both ponies.  This report, plus various body tissue samples and the legs from each pony were sent to the Centre for Equine Health at UC Davis for in-depth analysis.  
Let us hope that the lives of these two fillies will not have been in vain and that through the generosity of their owner in sending samples and body parts for pathology, will help successive generations of the breed.  The condolences of the research group members go out to this owner on the loss of these ponies.

Interesting news update.  This is interesting news from the academic and research perspective but probably will be seen more as a bad news post for the Connemara pony community at large.

Notification to the research group of the first clinical case of HWSS, has just this week, come in from yet another new, country.  The research group was already aware that HWSS was in this genepool but only because of the ponies which have been exported from this location that have gone on to produce HWSS offspring in other countries.   

For example, to date the only clinical case of HWSS in New Zealand is in a imported in utero from this country but, born in New Zealand, pony.  To say the least, this was a surprise to all at the time.  It also has to be noted that this in-foal mare was imported to New Zealand well before existance of the HWSS condition was being acknowledged in the wider Connemara pony population. 

What is extremely interesting from the pedigree research perspective is that in each of these  ponies from this new country, looking at their four generation pedigrees they have nothing in common with each other.  It is only when one is able to look at extended pedigrees that the probable lines of descent become apparant.  

The hypothesis behind the transmission of HWSS, as you are now all well aware, is that it is a simple recessive progression; it can pass through many generations without it ever being expressed.  To date there are (to the members of the research group) well known and obvious patterns of inheritance which appear in affected HWSS ponies.  For the most part these are 'close-up' in the pedigrees of affected ponies and quite obvious within a 4 generation pedigree.  However with two of the 'new' carriers and the one recently notified HWSS affected pony, the already known lines of descent do not appear until  6-7 generations back in the pedigrees.  

This indicates that HWSS came into this 'new'  country  with the early imports of the 1960's and 1970's and that the condition was already widely spread within the Connemara populations from Ireland and the UK.  
With the contraction of the genepool towards a more homozygous state (as is happening with the Connemara breed worldwide) then statistically one expects to see a rise in HWSS affected ponies in this particular country.

Other news: Blood samples from clinically affected HWSS ponies have recently been sent to the Bannasch laboratory from Denmark, Germany and Sweden.  Thank you to the pony owners who at their own expense had their ponies inspected, identified and blood sampled by a veterinary professional, provided the high definition photographs of the hooves and then also paid the shipping costs to the Bannasch Laboratory, UC Davis.   Sending biological samples between countries is a very involved, precise and expensive process.  Thank you to those people.

New Zealand breeders have sent over a consignment of  blood and hair samples from 39 ponies.  This shipment included the one HWSS case, the dam of this case and a normal half sibling.   

New Zealand is in a very interesting position genetically.  The ponies in this country are for the most part even more closely related to each other than seen elsewhere in the world.  This is the result of geographic isolation and the prohibitive cost of importation.  The genepool still includes breeding stock whose parents were from the first wave of imports into the country in the 1970's.   The large number of blood samples sent from New Zealand is to provide a pool of ponies that are expected to to be free of HWSS carrier status, which can then be used as 'controls' in developing the future diagnostic test.  Only time will tell whether this is in fact a true reflection of the genetic status of the Connemara pony in New Zealand.