University of MN Researchers to Study Death of Medina Spirit


Medina Spirit | Horsephotos

Researchers at the University of Minnesota will assist in investigating the high-profile death of GI Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit (Protonico), who collapsed on Monday due to a suspected cardiac event.

While an official necropsy will be conducted at the University of California, Davis, samples of hair, blood, and heart tissue are en route to the university's College of Veterinary Medicine's (CVM) Equine Genetics and Genomics Laboratory, where scientists are already studying cardiac arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death in racehorses. Researchers are expected to release their findings to the California Horse Racing Board independently of and well after the necropsy report, and “hope to determine whether Medina Spirit had specific genetic factors putting him at risk for sudden cardiac death.”

” The CVM scientists, led by Assistant Professor Sian Durward-Akhurst and Professor Molly McCue, will also incorporate the Medina Spirit samples into an ongoing research project seeking to understand genetic and other risk factors for sudden cardiac death in racehorses,” said a release from UMN. “The researchers' goal is to identify horses at risk for sudden cardiac death–and to put tools into the hands of racetrack veterinarians that will allow them to identify those horses in time to scratch them from a race–in order to prevent future such tragedies. Those tools include an at-rest electrocardiogram (ECG) combined with artificial intelligence to identify horses likely to develop irregular heartbeats during a race–even if their resting ECG looks normal.”

“Medina Spirit's death is devastating, and sadly, such deaths occur all too frequently,” Dr. McCue said. “Our hope is to find ways to pinpoint horses at risk so we can intervene before they lose their lives. In addition to helping equine athletes, this research may also provide answers for sudden cardiac death in young human athletes.”


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