Genetics and immune reactions in the horse

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Dr. Doug Antczak’s research in the past year has focused on projects comparing the genomes of horses and wild or domestic animals, and defining the interactions between the horse immune system and a common but devastating virus.

  • Genetics of the oryx, camel, and Arabian horse. The Antczak lab is working with colleagues at Weill Cornell Medical – Qatar and at the University of Florida to sequence the genomes of these three iconic animals of the Middle East to develop sequences and databases that can be shared with scientists all over the world. They are also evaluating the level of genetic diversity in these species – important information for captive breeding programs of the endangered oryx populations and for breeding the healthiest Arabian horses and camels for racing or other uses.
  • Measuring immune activity to learn how to make a better vaccine. Viruses in the herpes family present a tremendous challenge for vaccine development in horses and in humans. The weak immunity developed by current equine herpesvirus (EHV) vaccines contributes to the devastating repeated outbreaks of disease caused by this virus. By examining how EHV interacts with components of the immune system called T cells and the major histocompatibility complex molecules, Antczak and his colleagues from Berlin, San Diego, and Virginia have shown that the immune system of most horses are not well-tuned to the antigens this virus presents to the immune system. The goals of the studies are to develop new vaccines that can stimulate protective immunity to EHV.