Blood Biomarkers Could Help Diagnose
Sarcoids in Horses

Sometimes it’s obvious your horse has a sarcoid—those noncancerous skin tumors with a classic nodular or verrucous (cauliflowerlike) appearance are difficult to miss. But what about that patch of rough-looking skin or that little warty lump? Are they sarcoids? Your veterinarian can run diagnostic tests for sarcoids in horses, but those techniques aren’t without their challenges. Gold-standard biopsies can aggravate the tumors and make the disease worse, and less-invasive swabbing techniques don’t detect all cases.

But researchers in Switzerland are working toward a new way to confirm sarcoids: They’ve tested an innovative blood test that looks for recently identified biomarkers indicative of sarcoids.

The focus is on microRNAs (miRNAs)—tiny RNAs that circulate freely in the blood without cells and don’t code for anything, but seem to target and silence messenger RNAs, said Lucia Unger, DrMedVet, Dipl. ECEIM, and Vinzenz Gerber, DrMedVet, PhD, Dipl. ACVIM, ECEIM, both of the University of Bern Vetsuisse Faculty Swiss Institute of Equine Medicine and Agroscope Bern.

Researchers know miRNAs are good biomarkers for detecting cancer in humans and other mammals. And while sarcoids aren’t a cancer per se, because they don’t metastasize, they are still invasive tumors with cancerlike qualities, Unger said.

In their recent study, Unger and colleagues ran miRNA whole blood and blood serum testing on five healthy horses and six horses with sarcoids. They found that sarcoid-affected horses had nine kinds of miRNA in their serum that were significantly different from those in the healthy horses’ serum, she said. When they tested the whole blood, they found 19 miRNAs that were expressed differently in horses with sarcoids than in healthy horses.

Unger said this gives them strong hope that they’ve identified a reliable sarcoid biomarker in the blood.

Read More at Thehorse