Developing a novel diagnostic test for early pregnancy in the mare

The University of Newcastle

  • Project code: PRJ-011748

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Saturday, May 18, 2019

  • Project completion date: Sunday, April 30, 2023

  • Journal Articles From Project: Conception and early pregnancy in the mare: lipidomics the unexplored frontier Reproduction and Fertility (Issue: 3(1): R1–R18. on 18/2/2022), The Future of Biomarkers in Veterinary Medicine: Emerging Approaches and Associated Challenges Animals (Issue: 12(17) on 26/8/2022)

  • National Priority: HOR-Thoroughbred breeding


This project seeks to enhance breeding efficiency in the Thoroughbred (TB) horse industry by working towards developing a novel method for the detection and monitoring of early pregnancy. Despite gold standard management practices, breeding is still inefficient and drives significant economic losses: while fertilisation rates are estimated at 95%, only about 65% of covers end up as foals on the ground. Improved pregnancy monitoring techniques are urgently needed. In this project we will harness state-of-the-art mass spectrometry technology to compare the blood protein and lipid profiles of early pregnant and non-pregnant mares, and use world-first in vitro strategies to investigate the unique biological features of equine pregnancy. This will ultimately lead to development of a quick, simple and accurate on-farm blood test for early pregnancy and enhanced understanding of the possible causes for early embryo loss.


Thoroughbred Horses

Research Organisation

The University of Newcastle

Objective Summary

This project aims to work towards the development of a novel, simple and robust on-farm test for the detection of early pregnancy in the mare, and will consist of the following R&D objectives:
1. To compare the serum protein profile of early pregnant and non-pregnant mares
2. To compare the serum lipid profile of early pregnant and non-pregnant mares
3. To identify compounds that could serve as biomarkers of a) early pregnancy and b) compromised early pregnancy or poor embryo health, at timepoints prior to conventional diagnosis by ultrasound (i.e. earlier than day 14 after ovulation)
4. To profile the compounds (proteins and lipids) secreted by early equine embryos, their biological roles in interaction with the maternal system (e.g. maternal recognition and prostaglandin production), and their potential role in early embryo demise
5. Building on the outcomes of objectives 1-4, to design a prototype test suitable for on-farm trials as an early pregnancy detection and/or pregnancy health monitoring diagnostic assay, to be trialed in subsequent breeding seasons.