The Brooks Equine Genetics Lab at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, is working to identify the genetic cause of juvenile idiopathic epilepsy (JIE) in Arabian horses.
The project—led by Samantha Brooks, PhD, and funded in part by the Arabian Horse Foundation (AHF)—seeks to identify the mode of inheritance, identify the mutation(s) associated with JIE and ultimately develop a diagnostic test to assist owners and breeders in identifying carrier breeding stock.
To advance this research project, assistance from the Arabian horse community is requested. DNA samples are needed from horses that have been previously diagnosed with JIE, as well as horses that have had an offspring with JIE. All studies are confidential, so participant and horse identity will not be released.
“This project is an expansion of the Arabian Horse Foundation’s support of research into genetic disorders of particular interest to the Arabian horse breed,” stated Beth Minnich, chair of the AHF’s Research Advisory Panel. “While JIE is thought to be a genetic disorder, no extensive work has been done to identify the exact genetic mode of inheritance or the proposed relationship with lavender foal syndrome.”
Juvenile idiopathic epilepsy is a seizure disorder and affected foals usually begin exhibiting clinical signs between two days and six months of age. The seizures exhibited by affected foals generally begin with muscle stiffness all over the body and the foal might fall over. After the stiffening ceases, rapid muscle contractions then begin all over the body. The seizures can last from only a few seconds up to about five minutes. During this time the horse could lose consciousness or possibly injure itself either falling over or thrashing on the ground. Once the episode has ended the foal usually exhibits some temporary post-seizure signs including blindness, lethargy, and disorientation.
Once the horse has outgrown the seizures it can usually go on to live a normal healthy life. Anti-seizure medications have been effective in reducing frequency and severity of the seizures and are helpful in decreasing risk of injury during an episode.
Interested Arabian owners can contact the Brooks Equine Genetics Lab for more information on participating in this study at either 352/273-8080 or[email protected].
For additional information on the AHF’s research program contact Minnich.