The new chip houses more than 3,200 expressed horse genes on a sliver of glass about the size of a postage stamp. When the researchers began developing this chip two years ago, only 200 horse genes were known.
This new chip will allow researchers to scan an individual horses genes at once to see which ones are active in a certain situation. For example, drug companies might use a gene chip to predict how a particular drug will affect an animal.
Since their invention nearly a decade ago, gene chips have revolutionized some basic approaches to research. Having a representative gene chip for a large animal could lead to better accuracy in studying human disease. Commercial gene chips already exist for humans, mice, rats, rice plants and a number of microorganisms.
"Although we rely on animal models to study human diseases, we really aren't sure what some of the genetic differences are between those animal models and humans," said Alicia Bertone, the professor of veterinary clinical sciences who led Ohio State's efforts in developing the equine gene chip.
"The genetic differences between humans and most animals are small in most cases, more than 90 percent of our DNA is similar," Bertone said. Knowing which genes are similar can be a boon to researchers who use animal models to learn about human diseases.
"Gene chips can help uncover these key differences, giving us critical information before we launch into an experiment," Bertone said. "The scientific community has invested a lot of money in animal models that don't truly represent the human situation, so having this kind of information is extremely beneficial."
Bertone developed the chip with the help of Weisong Gu, a postdoctoral researcher in veterinary clinical scien
Contact: Alicia Bertone
Ohio State University