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Equine neuroaxonal dystrophy/degenerative myeloencephalopathy (eNAD/EDM) is the second most common cause of neurologic disease in horses. The condition affects the brainstem and spinal cord and can cause severe gait abnormalities. Studies suggest a genetic basis for the disease, as eNAD/EDM appears to occur in families. Vitamin E deficiency early in life also appears to play a role in disease development. However, despite years of extensive study, researchers have not discovered causative genetic mutations for this condition. The liver performs critical functions in vitamin E storage, metabolism and transport but has not been assessed in horses with eNAD/EDM. In human studies, genes related to liver function have been linked to diseases like eNAD/EDM and may provide novel insight into the cause of eNAD/EDM in horses. In this study, researchers will determine which liver genes and genetic pathways are altered with eNAD/EDM to learn how affected horses process vitamin E. The team will also evaluate Quarter horses' genome with eNAD/EDM. Any promising mutations identified will be assessed in a larger group of horses to pinpoint candidate genes for further study. This study provides the first steps toward identifying causative genes for eNAD/EDM to help inform breeding decisions to reduce or eliminate the incidence of eNAD/EDM in horses. Findings also will inform vitamin E supplementation strategies for foals at high risk for developing this challenging neurological disease.

Study ID
Study Status
Grant amount awarded
Grant recipient
University of California, Davis
Study country
United States
Carrie J Finno, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVIM (LAIM)