Supervisors: Dr Debbie Guest and Dr Esther Palomino Lago 

Department: Pathobiology and Population Sciences 

Project Details

Fractures caused by bone overloading (as opposed to a direct trauma) often occur in racing Thoroughbreds and are the most common reason for a horse to be euthanised on the racecourse. The risk of fracture is affected by both environmental and genetic factors.  

We have previously applied the use of a genome-wide polygenic risk score to establish an in vitro cell system to study bone gene regulation. This model identified a number of genes which are differentially expressed in bone-forming cells derived from horses at genetically high and low risk of fracture. A proportion of these genes have a known role in bone formation or fracture, but a proportion of the genes have no published role in bone.   

We have an exciting opportunity for an MRes project in our group to determine the role of some of these candidate genes in bone differentiation.   

This project will use cutting edge cell culture methods to determine gene function and will involve training in a wide range of molecular biology techniques.  


  1. E. Palomino Lago, A. Baird, S. C. Blott, R E McPhail, A. C. Ross, D. J Guest. A Functional Single-Nucleotide Polymorphism Upstream of the Collagen Type III Gene Is Associated with Catastrophic Fracture Risk in Thoroughbred Horses. Animals 2024, 14, 116. . 

  2. Baird A, Lindsay T, Everett A, Iyemere V, Paterson YZ, McClellan A, et al. Osteoblast differentiation of equine induced pluripotent stem cells. Biology Open. 2018;7(5):bio033514. doi: 10.1242/bio.033514. 

  3. Blott SC, Swinburne JE, Sibbons C, Fox-Clipsham LY, Helwegen M, Hillyer L, et al. A genome-wide association study demonstrates significant genetic variation for fracture risk in Thoroughbred racehorses. BMC genomics. 2014;15(1):147. Epub 2014/02/25. doi: 10.1186/1471-2164-15-147. 

  4. Welsh CE, Lewis TW, Blott SC, Mellor DJ, Stirk AJ, Parkin TD. Estimates of genetic parameters of distal limb fracture and superficial digital flexor tendon injury in UK Thoroughbred racehorses. Vet J. 2014. Epub 2014/04/01. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2014.03.005. PubMed PMID: 24679457. 




  • Previous laboratory experience including cell culture and/or molecular biology would be beneficial but is not essential. 

This can be taken full-time or part-time (12months FTE) project commencing in October 2024, based at RVC's Hawkshead campus. 


Partially funded: The lab will be covering the project costs, with the MRes student expected to meet the course fees and their living expenses. 

International applicants are welcome to apply but must be able to fund the difference between "Home" and "Overseas" tuition fees. Please note that EU/EEA and Swiss national students may no longer be eligible for the “Home” rate of tuition fees, dependent on personal circumstances (including immigration status and residence history in the UK) and UK government rules which are currently being developed. For up-to-date information on fees for EU/EEA and Swiss national students following Brexit please see our fees and funding page. 

How to Apply

For more information on the application process and English Language requirements see How to Apply.

Deadline: 1pm UK time, Friday 5th April

We welcome informal enquiries - these should be directed to Dr Debbie Guest (

Interviews will take place via Zoom on the 26th April.

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