As horse lovers we know the close bond we feel with our equines. Two recent scientific studies prove that the relationship between humankind and horses not only goes back thousands of years, but also has been instrumental for survival and demonstrates that genetically we share some traits.

The first study  from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History researched the long-distance migrations of “early Bronze Age pastoralists in the Eurasian steppe.” We’re talking over 5,000 years ago, when herding groups ranged from what is now Scandinavia to Siberia. The researchers found evidence that what allowed these peoples to move across great stretches of land was by consuming dairy.

By examining “calculus” or tartar building up on the teeth of skeletal remains the researchers were able to conclude that up to 94% of these early Bronze Age people drank milk. And here’s where it gets interesting: while some milk was shown genetically to be from the usual suspects, cows, sheep, and goats, there was evidence that these people drank horse milk. Which further proved to the scientists that horse domestication was something that was being practiced by these Bronze Age migrant farmers.

“We see a major transition to dairying right at the point that pastoralists began expanding eastwards,” wrote Professor Nicole Boivin, senior author of the study and Director of the Department of Archaeology at the MPI Science of Human History. “Steppe populations were no longer just using animals for meat, but exploiting their additional properties ‒ milking them and using them for transport, for example.”

In the second study  from Cornell University, researchers looked at how antimicrobial properties of certain stem cell proteins could offer a potential treatment to reduce infection in skin wounds.

Specifically, this type of treatment effectively reduced the viability of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus ‒ better known as MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria that is the scourge of hospitals and other health care settings such as nursing homes. The research came from scientists from the Baker Institute for Animal Health, part of the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM), who worked with stem cells from horses.

Not only did the equine stem cells reduce MRSA, they also “increase the antimicrobial activity of the skin cells by stimulating immune responses of the surrounding resident skin cells.”

According to the study, horses were used “because, in both horses and humans, particular types of chronic wounds are often therapy-resistant and cause various complications, leading to high morbidity and mortality.”

For the purposes of the study, skin samples were cultured for three days from the skin of horses that were euthanized for reasons unrelated to the study. The research team then created an “infected wound model” and treated it for 24 hours with either “antibiotics, plain medium that acted as a control in the experiment, or MSC secretome. At the end of the treatment period, the researchers measured bacterial load by evaluating colony-forming units per gram of tissue.”

In conclusion, Dr. Charlotte Marx, a postdoctoral researcher and an author of the paper said, “By identifying additional effective treatments,” she said, “we can contribute to reducing the use of antibiotics in both veterinary and human medicine, which is important for the fight against antibiotic resistance.”