Horse DNA similar to humans

By James G. Robertson, National Geographic Digital Media

Scientists have finished a three-year project decoding the genome of the horse and have found something about the human genome in the process.

The researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University found lots of similarities between the DNA of a horse and that of humans, including large sections of chromosomes that change little between the two species.


Photo: Twilight, the horse whose genome was studied.  Courtesy Doug Antczak, Baker Institute for Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University

Horses suffer from about 90 genetic diseases that resemble human genetic diseases, making the research important in finding cures for horse diseases as well as possibly important in curing some human diseases.  Researchers have already found the cause of a specific coloring that is also linked to a kind of night blindness.  The researchers also made a new discovery about how chromosomes function.

The DNA from the female thoroughbred Twilight was also compared to other horse breeds, and the researchers found about 1 million differences in the genomes, showing the genetic diversity in the horse species.


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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn