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New EPO test used in ONT

August 07, 2006

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The Pennsylvania Equine Toxicology and Research Laboratory recently proved it deserves its number one ranking by being the first laboratory in the world to confirm the actual presence (not just the antibodies resulting from the use) of the drug erythropoietin (EPO), or Darbepoetin-Alfa, in the horse. The Pennsylvania laboratory was able to confirm laboratory readings from an ELISA test conducted in a Toronto laboratory on three racehorses in Ontario, which resulted in a lengthy suspension for the trainer of the horses by the Ontario Racing Commission.

“We first were able to extract the protein-based drug (EPO) from plasma, through the work of a team led by Dr. Eric Birks,” Dr. Lawrence Soma said. He is the equine research director at the New Bolton Center of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Equine research conducted by Dr. Soma and Laboratory director Dr. Cornelius Uboh is supported by the Commission and contributions from horsemen.

“Then, Dr. Fuyu Guan, who works closely with Dr. Uboh, was able to develop a brand new method of breaking apart the protein of the human EPO molecules into smaller fractions (peptides), thus allowing the positive identification of the EPO itself using a very sensitive LC/MS/MS technology.

“Dr. Guan has been working on EPO and Darbepoetin-Alfa and conducting experiments with research horses that have been administered EPO, and thus he was able to use that information as a model. We have optimized the method, and today we are able to make the positive EPO/Darbepoetin-Alfa identification, and not just on the presence of antibodies that may be produced in the horse by the administration of human EPO to horses.” Pennsylvania Commission chairman Roy Wilt, commissioner Art Manuel, and executive secretary Anton Leppler, and the horsemen’s associations, applaud the cutting-edge work done by the lab, which puts Pennsylvania at the forefront of insuring the integrity of harness racing within its borders. (press release by Pennsylvania Harness Racing Commission)
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