12-12-2011, 10:52 AM
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From the UC Davis Veterinary Medicine website:
Hereditary equine regional dermal asthenia (HERDA) is a genetic skin disease predominantly found in the American Quarter Horse. Within the breed, the disease is prevalent in particular lines of cutting horses.
HERDA is characterized by hyperextensible skin, scarring, and severe lesions along the back of affected horses. Affected foals rarely show symptoms at birth. The condition typically occurs by the age of two, most notably when the horse is first being broke to saddle. There is no cure, and the majority of diagnosed horses are euthanized because they are unable to be ridden and are inappropriate for future breeding.
HERDA has an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance and affects stallions and mares in equal proportions. Research carried out in Dr. Danika Bannasch's laboratory at the University of California, Davis, has identified the gene and mutation associated with HERDA.
The diagnostic DNA test for HERDA that has been developed allows identification of horses that are affected or that carry the specific mutation. Other skin conditions can mimic the symptoms of HERDA. The DNA test will assist veterinarians to make the correct diagnosis.
For horse breeders, identification of carriers is critical for the selection of mating pairs. Breedings of carrier horses have a 25% chance of producing an affected foal. Breedings between normal and carrier horses will not produce a HERDA foal although 50% of the foals are expected to be carriers.
Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis (HYPP)
Hyperkalemic periodic paralysis (HYPP) is an inherited disease of the muscle which is caused by a genetic defect. In the muscle of affected horses, a point mutation exists in the sodium channel gene and is passed on to offspring.
Sodium channels are "pores" in the muscle cell membrane which control contraction of the muscle fibers. When the defective sodium channel gene is present, the channel becomes "leaky" and makes the muscle overly excitable and contract involuntarily. The channel becomes "leaky" when potassium levels fluctuate in the blood. This may occur with fasting followed by consumption of a high potassium feed such as alfalfa.
Hyperkalemia, which is an excessive amount of potassium in the blood, causes the muscles in the horse to contract more readily than normal. This makes the horse susceptible to sporadic episodes of muscle tremors or paralysis.
This genetic defect has been identified in descendents of the American Quarter Horse sire, Impressive. The original genetic defect causing HYPP was a natural mutation that occurred as part of the evolutionary process. The majority of such mutations, which are constantly occurring, are not compatible with survival. However, the genetic mutation causing HYPP produced a functional, yet altered, sodium ion channel.
This gene mutation is not a product of inbreeding. The gene mutation causing HYPP inadvertently became widespread when breeders sought to produce horses with heavy musculature. To date, confirmed cases of HYPP have been restricted to descendants of this horse.