Equine Pregnancy Laboratory research in the news

Pregnancy loss in the first 8 weeks of development can be challenging for veterinary surgeons to manage and distressing and frustrating for breeders, with the cause  unknown in around 80% of cases. In our latest paper led by our very talented PhD student Charlotte Shilton, in collaboration with veterinary surgeons across the UK and Ireland, and geneticists Professor Raudsepp and Dr Davis, Texas A and M, we identified a chromosomal defect as the reason why a significant proportion of horse pregnancies fail within the first two months of development. The work was made possible through funding provided by the Thoroughbred Breeders Association over the last 8 years that has allowed us first to determine risk factors (de Mestre et al, 2019), develop the methods of tissue isolation (reported in Rose et al, 2016) and then to move on and address this important question. Full details of the study can be found in our publication in Scientific Reports free for all to access www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-69967-z. Learn more in the latest news story by RVC media office.  https://www.rvc.ac.uk/equine-vet/news/pioneering-rvc-research-identifies-a-key-reason-for-equine-pregnancy-loss

University of California Davis student wins STAR award to study in the Equine Pregnancy Laboratory 

We were delighted to host veterinary student Alexandra Grillos over the summer of 2019 to work with us on our genetic causes of early pregnancy loss study. Lexi investigated the copy number variation of a genomic region on the X chromosome that codes for the gene STAG2. She was supported both by the Summer Advanced Research Training in Research (STAR) programme and the International Summer Externship Grant from the Office of Global Programs. Learn more about the  and Lexis experience working in the Equine Pregnancy Laboratory in her video. https://youtu.be/adIlDlp84-k

PhD student Jessica Roach voted onto Society for Reproduction and Fertility Council as Early Career representative. 

Jess Roach joins the SRF council in January 2019 as a voice for early career members of the Society. Her new role will involve the delivery of early career member events at the leading Fertility conference each January and new programmes in career development. Congratulations Jess, I am confident you will be a real asset to SRF!

ISER Breeders Talk

Are you a horse breeder and interested in listening to an update on our work? You can now watch Mandi's seminar on 'Update on Pregnancy Loss' and other talks from the ISER Breeders Day July 2018 by following this link. 


ISER 2018

July 2018

Mandi, Jessica and undergraduate research student Hatti Smart along with our collaborator Dr Madeleine Campbell have spent a week in Cambridge attending and presenting at ISERXII, an international gathering of 300 scientists and veterinary surgeons working in the field of equine reproduction. David Dugdale, the chairman of the local organising committee along with Barry Ball, chairman of the International committee put together an exciting programme of science and networking events. Fantastic to see all four abstracts from the Equine Pregnancy Laboratory presented as oral presentations. Congratulations to all members of the group including both those attending and those back at the lab who kept things ticking along in our absence. If you are interested in reading about the work presented by the equine pregnancy lab, our abstracts can be found on page 100, 178, 229 and 233 in the Journal of Equine Science supplement below. 


Presenting at British Equine Veterinary Association Congress in Liverpool

In mid-September, Mandi travelled to Liverpool to present work from the laboratory on stud farm management and risk factors for pregnancy loss at the Annual BEVA Congress. It turned out to be a most enjoyable meeting, providing a great opportunity to discuss our work with clinicians in the field. Congratulations to the organisers and the excellent RVC Vet Students (You did us proud!) who supported them.

Travel Award to attend International Federations of Placental Associations Annual Meeting

In September, Mandi and Belinda headed up to Manchester to attend the International Federation of Placenta Associations Annual Meeting. Over 400 scientists and clinicians who are experts in clinical and basic science aspects of the placenta and pregnancy gathered from around the world to present and discuss the latest research in Placental Biology and Pregnancy. Belinda presented work from her PhD on ‘Profiling of structural genomic variants in placentae from mares that suffer early pregnancy loss’ for which she was a recipient of a Y.W. (Charlie) Loke Award for Early Career Researchers received in a ceremony on the first night of the conference. Congratulations Belinda!

International Symposium of Equine Reproduction Update

Mandi has been up in Newmarket and Cambridge this week in her capacity as a member of the International Symposium of Equine Reproduction local organising committee which is hosting ISER XII. With exactly one year to go, the committee has been finalising the accommodation and conference rooms. Lots of highlights at our visit to Churchill College including modern architecture, beautiful grounds and viewing of a mature oak tree planted by Sir Winston Churchill.

New collaborative project starts 'How do early life experiences in Thoroughbreds affect injury risk and racing performance in later life?'

This is a 3-year project funded by the HBLB and the Racing Foundation lead by Professor Kristien Verheyen in collaboration with Dr Mandi de Mestre, Professor Renate Weller, Dr Shebl Salem and PhD student Rebecca Mouncey. In this new collaboration, the equine pregnancy laboratory has extended our interests to better understand how exposures in early fetal life can impact on long term adult musculoskeletal health.   Lead Investigator, Professor Kristien Verheyen, has a particular interest in early life exercise (foal, weanling, yearling) and how that relates to productivity of the industry, injuries and performance. Therefore, there seemed to be an excellent opportunity to align our interests and perform a longitudinal cohort study to look at exposures throughout a horses life from in utero and beyond and then relate these exposures to injuries and performance and as well as industry productivity. We are currently recruiting stud farms to work with us on the project. If you are interested in understanding new ways to maximise your productivity and minimise injuries, please see our current projects pages for more details or contact Prof Kristien Verheyen kverheyen@rvc.ac.uk or Dr Mandi de Mestre ademestre@rvc.ac.uk

Hatti Smart presents at Southampton

Hatti presents at SouthamptonUndergraduate veterinary student, Hatti Smart, presented her research from the lab at the conference ‘Little embryos do make big decisions’ in Southampton on Friday 7th July. Well done Hatti!

Research Update Evening at Rossdales Equine Hospital

On July 3rd the Equine Pregnancy Lab held a Research Update evening at Rossdales Equine Hospital for the breeders and vets in Newmarket and the surrounding area. Belinda started the evening by presenting the findings of her work on early pregnancy loss (EPL) and introducing the aims of her next project, exploring the genetics of placental development and EPL, funded by the Thoroughbred Breeders Association. Jess followed up by providing a review of late term pregnancy losses as well as discussing the impact umbilical cord torsions have as a cause of abortion in the Thoroughbred industry and how we will explore this over the next 4 years. Her project, funded by the Alborada Trust, relies heavily on the involvement of the studs and vets in order to provide materials and data for investigation therefore it was great to see the enthusiasm from everyone to tackle this problem as an industry. There was a great turn out to the evening and it allowed not only for us to provide updates on the research at RVC but also a chance for everyone to catch up and unwind after a busy breeding season. 

Belinda Rose passes PhD viva

Belinda Rose did an excellent job defending her PhD thesis on Friday 9th June when examined by reproductive biologist Professor Tom Stout (Utrecht University) and epidemiologist Dr Tim Parkin (Glasgow University). Aspects of her PhD titled ‘Risk factors and pathologies associated with early pregnancy loss’ have been published in Placenta Journal (Rose et al, 2016) with further publications in preparation. Belinda has received a fellowship to continue her work in the lab for three more years on early pregnancy loss as a postdoctoral fellow. Congratulations Belinda!

Belinda Rose presenting her work at Fertility 2017 in Edinburgh in January.

Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Annual Seminar

The 15th June held the centenary Annual Seminar of the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association : ‘Solving Breeders’ Problems’.  Industry experts discussed a variety of topics including the effect of Brexit on the racing industry, equine vaccine supplies and concerns regarding African horse sickness. Belinda Rose and Mandi de Mestre were invited to present their work on risk factors relating to early pregnancy loss and factors affecting early embryonic growth. The day proved a great success and provided a superb opportunity to discuss the research findings with industry staff and owner breeders.


Mandi and Belinda presenting at the TBA seminar

Post Graduate Research Day at the RVC

Poster presentation for Post Graduate Research Day May 2017

Both Belinda and Jess presented work at the annual Post Graduate Research day held by the RVC. Jess presented a poster abstract: “Unravelling genetic and environmental contributions to Equine abortions associated with umbilical pathologies”, detailing her work to date and outline for the next 4 years on how she is going to investigate abortions resulting from umbilical cord pathologies. Belinda presented a 15 minute talk on the Risk factors and pathologies associated with early pregnancy loss. The whole day was a success and it was a great opportunity to see the fantastic work carried out by other research groups at the RVC.

Jessica Roach BVM MRCVS joins lab

This month we welcomed veterinary surgeon, Jessica Roach to the lab, who will be completing a 4 year PhD with the group. Jess graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in 2013, then undertook two internships in the USA, including an ambulatory internship at Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Kentucky. She also worked for a short period in Newmarket but returned to Kentucky for the 2016 breeding season to work as an Associate and resident vet at a large stud farm, again for Rood and Riddle. We are looking forward to the outcome of her studies on equine abortion.

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