Potential Biomarker for Tying-up Found

In an equine study using "proteomic" technology that systematically analyzed the proteins in skeletal muscle biopsies, a research team from The Netherlands identified a form of the protein creatine kinase that could be a marker for acute tying-up in horses.

"Tying-up or rhabdomyolysis in horses is a serious condition that is characterized by obvious discomfort, abnormal muscle stiffness, and difficulties to move with short strides, muscle hardening/contracting with hindquarter spasms, and an elevated pulse and respiration. Eventually it can led to death," wrote the group. The team, led by Edwin Mariman, Professor and Dr E.C.M., performed this research at the NUTRIM School for Nutrition, Toxicology, and Metabolism at Maastricht University Medical Center and the Department of Equine Sciences at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

Identifying new markers for diagnosing tying-up will provide a better understanding of the disease and may enable veterinarians to devise more successful treatment strategies.

In an attempt to identify new biomarkers for acute tying-up, Mariman et al. collected muscle biopsies from three horses that were acutely tying-up and three healthy horses. They identified more than 350 proteins in the muscle biopsies. The amount of 14 of these proteins was significantly different between the tying-up horses and the healthy horses.

Further analysis by a technique called "peptide mass fingerprinting" revealed three key proteins: alpha actin, tropomyosin alpha chain, and creatine kinase M chain (CKM). The CKM protein in particular drew the researchers' attentions as one of the forms of the proteins appeared to be unique for tying-up.

"Our findings point to a specific isoform of CKM as a novel biomarker for tying-up, suggesting that altered energy distribution within muscle cells is part of the disease etiology," wrote the researchers.

Larger studies are needed to further validate these findings and to determine if this CKM biomarker also circulates in horses' blood.

The study, "Novel markers for tying-up in horses by proteomics analysis of equine muscle biopsies," is scheduled to be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology, Part D.

The abstract is currently available on PubMed.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.

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