New Bolton Developing Biological Passports, With Help From Pennsylvania Breeders

POSTED ON  |  07-06-2019

Biobank New Bolton
It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie: Rows of vials in a laboratory freezer, each containing detailed biological maps of what's going on inside the bodies of dozens of horses at specific moments in time. The frozen blood samples might one day hold the keys to making racing clean and drug-free, predicting injuries before they happen and helping veterinarians fight illness with new and powerful tools. Sound too good to be true? Researchers at Penn Vet's New Bolton Center hope it's not.

The Center's Equine Pharmacology Laboratory is in the process of gathering and analyzing data from racing Thoroughbreds — both those who have been seen at New Bolton for an orthopedic injury and horses active on the track – for its BioBank, a giant cache of stored, carefully-preserved samples. They hope one day the information could be used for biological passports, which have a number of potential uses in competition horses.

Biological passports would track biomarkers and proteins in a horse's body over time. They could show natural or artificial changes which could signal an injury or disease or the horse's reaction to a drug or other substance.   

The BioBank project has received tremendous support from the Pennsylvania Horse Breeders' Association (PHBA), which last year donated $300,000 to the lab as part of a tiered, multi-year project. PHBA executive secretary Brian Sanfratello said the organization's support was based on concerns from its membership.

“Our board sent all the members a survey. We got quite a few back and set up a couple focus groups. We wanted to know what was important to breeders,” Sanfratello said. “There were quite a few things in the list but one of them was being able to race on a level playing field and making sure that the horses that we breed are not taken advantage of by medication and doping.”

© 2015 IGSRV All rights reserved.