Horses, Hounds, and Research Highlights: An Interview With Dr. Lance Perryman

Despite his groundbreaking work with SCID, Dr. Perryman didn’t get started researching the disease until after receiving his PhD from Washington State University.

Despite his groundbreaking work with SCID, Dr. Perryman didn’t get started researching the disease until after receiving his PhD from Washington State University.

Dr. Lance Perryman, who contributed to the discovery that Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) is inherited as an autosomal recessive condition in Arabian horses, recently took the time to share some insight with curiousYOUNGwriters (cYw).

As was stated in our feature piece on SCID, “Arabian horses aren’t being utilized for research purposes as often as their benefits suggest,” and Dr. Perryman could offer some reasons as to why this is the case.

The Arabian horse was first described as a model for SCID in 1973, and for about the next decade it was the only available animal model for this disorder in children. The initial research focused on treatment. Researchers asked and answered questions such as, “Can treatments be developed in horses that might be applicable to children?” and, “What is the precise gene defect in the Arabian horse and is it possible to test them to determine if they carry the gene defect?”

But researchers have since moved away from this model mainly because the gene defect that causes SCID in the Arabian horse is rarely the same gene defect that causes SCID in children. Therefore, from a molecular standpoint, it’s probably not the best model for the condition in children.

Basset Hounds may replace the Arabian horse model for SCID research in children.

Basset Hounds may replace the Arabian horse model for SCID research in children.

Also, since the gene defect that causes SCID has been very clearly defined, the need in the Arabian horse industry has been fulfilled; namely, anybody who’s planning on breeding or purchasing an Arabian horse now has the ability to have the horse tested to ensure that it doesn’t carry the defective gene. For these reasons, it’s unlikely that the Arabian horse model will be used extensively for SCID research in the future.

But if the Arabian horse isn’t the desired model for SCID, then what is? The answer lies in another uncommon animal model: “I’m going to speculate that, today, the Basset Hound model might be the best animal model for studying the disorder in children,” says Perryman. The main reason is that the Hounds have the gene defect that’s most commonly involved with SCID in children. Simply put, the defect matches up, and this is important when considering potential animal models.

Besides the fact that Hounds are genetically similar to children in terms of the gene that expresses SCID, they also cost less to feed, have shorter gestation periods, and produce more offspring per year than Arabian horses (see chart below). Mice are also a viable model for SCID research in children.

Chart comparing the benefits and drawbacks of the Arabian horse, Basset Hound, and Mouse animal models for SCID research.

Chart comparing the benefits and drawbacks of the Arabian horse, Basset Hound, and Mouse animal models for SCID research.

Having been through the research process many times himself, Dr. Perryman finished with this piece of advice for young researchers: “I think that the key to success and happiness in research is to have an inquisitive mind.”

In other words, stay curious.

cYw5

Author: cYw5

“Hi and welcome to cYw! I enjoyed getting the chance to research something uncommon through this project. I love everything about science, but climate change specifically fascinates me. What started as a little middle school project about rising oceanic water temperatures has turned into a real research project that I’m currently working on in high school. In my free time, I can be found reading up on current science, tie-dying, writing, and creating art. As for the future, I hope to major in biology in college.”

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