Can the physical reaction of the horse on training intensity be measured with biomarkers? To answer this question, researchers of Wageningen UR Livestock Research and Utrecht University measured the RNA concentration of genes (gene expression) tissue in the muscle of young untrained horses (20 month-old Standardbred geldings) and after exercise at varying intensities (a combination of endurance and sprint at normal and intensive training intensity) followed by detraining.
The results indicated:
- The muscle tissue of intensively trained horses showed different connections between the muscle cells than normal trained horses
- After intensive training the gene expression of genes related to apoptosis (controlled cell death) was increased
- After intensive training the gene expression of genes related to immune processes was decreased
- During detraining, most mechanisms were reversed, but especially the changes in the muscle tissue were persistent.
The study did reveal important biomarkers with gene expression ratio of 2 or more, according to Marinus te Pas, scientist at Wageningen UR Livestock Research. However, those biomarkers are currently only detectable in muscle tissue, requiring a muscle biopsy. There is need to translate these predictors in (blood) plasma, saliva, or urine to develop a test that can be used by the trainers themselves.