Saturday, 28 July 2012

Vale for 'Duncan'

Duncan was euthanased yesterday, (northern hemisphere time, Thursday) after much heart searching on the part of his owners and the advising professionals.  His owners have given the research group permission to tell his story here.

Duncan was born in Ireland.  He was purchased as a yearling with the intention for him to be the next stallion for the stud.  His bloodlines were intended to bring in several 'outcrosses' ('new blood') to the local Connemara pony breeding population.

When Duncan arrived at his new home his hooves were very short but otherwise looked 'normal'.  Not long after his arrival however it became very apparent that there was a problem with Duncan's feet as they began to chip and peel.  His owners contacted their veterinarian for advice and so began the hoof dis-infection, antibiotic, feed supplementation, special shoes, hoof bonding/casting, despondency, treadmill that only those who have had an HWSS affected pony can attest too.  When none of these interventions resulted in an improvement Duncan was referred to the local veterinary school, where along with the in-house specialist farrier, more aggressive treatment began.  There had to be something that could be done for this pony, right?

Then serendipity and a degree of networking brought answers to Duncan's owners (and the people at the veterinary school) when this blog, the work of the research group  and Bannasch Laboratory was brought to their notice.  Duncan was promptly enrolled with the Bannasch Laboratory at UC Davis and his blood samples and other relevant information was dispatched in time, to be included in the second stage of the research.

Now Duncan is adding a unique postscript; two of his hooves are going to Amercia while the other two remain with researchers in his home country.   Hopefully his death will not be in vain and what is learned from his feet will, in the future stop any more ponies from being born with this condition.

Duncan became the 'poster boy' for HWSS in his home country.  There are excellent pictures here of Duncan's feet at various stage throughout the 2 years of his life he lived with his owners.  He never was able to be made sound regardless of what was done for him.

For those with the understanding of DNA technology the intention is to try and isolate the mRNA from the coronary band of the affected hooves to find out at what point of the keratinsation process in the hoof tissues that the defect begins.

An update on the progress of the DNA research came through today.  The researchers are now looking at specific genes, not just areas on the genome, previously referred to as 'areas of significance'.  The original GWAS found the areas of significance.  These areas were then sequenced more fully and the areas needing closer scrutiny reduced to 15 genes.    Now the results from the first of three of the 'most likely to be implicated genes' are through.  This sequencing has narrowed down the area of interest even further.  The next two candidate genes are to be sequenced in the next few weeks.  
Several genes can code for just one 'thing' hence the need to look at all of the 'suspect' genes. The hope is that by comparing the combinations of these sequences this will show the exact location/s where the mutation/s on the  gene/s  is/are occurring.

The 'good news' apart which Bannasch has delivered today, our condolences are extended to the owners of Duncan and the members of the research group thank them from the bottom of our hearts for making the difficult (as in logistics as well as emotional) decision to donate Duncan's feet to the two universities.

Kia Kaha