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Research Assessment #5

Latherin: A Surfactant Protein of Horse Sweat and Saliva

Date: 10/16/20

Subject: Latherin: A Surfactant Protein of Horse Sweat and Saliva

MLA/APA citation:  

McDonald RE, Fleming RI, Beeley JG, Bovell DL, Lu JR, et al. (2009) Latherin: A Surfactant Protein of Horse Sweat and

        Saliva. PLoS ONE 4(5): e5726. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0005726

Assessment: 

        My original work centers around the creation of a saddle pad that can help with the buildup of sweat on the backs of horses that could possibly cause bacterial infection. The experiment referenced in the article explores a surface protein commonly found in horse sweat was a perfect jumping off point so I could gain more knowledge about the actual biological and chemical processes that are occurring when a horse sweats. In short, latherin, a surfactant protein, is produced on the surface of the horse's skin and it helps with the secretion of sweat and the movement of the sweat away from the skin of the horse to aid in evaporative cooling(McDonald, Fleming, Beeley, Bovell, Lu). 

        One of the most stimulating things that I read centered around how this protein might actually protect the skin of the horse against microorganisms. This was quite shocking to me and discounted some of the previous knowledge I thought I knew about the harmful nature of sweat. In recent studies, proteins such as latherin have shown “potential for biological surfactants as antimicrobial activity or anti-adhesive agents against pathogens” (McDonald, Fleming, Beeley, Bovell, Lu). To me, this means that latherin can act as a protective agent against the growth of harmful bacteria or fungus. Many saddle pads contain a “wicking” function that wicks the sweat away from the horse’s hair in order to help with cooling. Is it possible that this wicking is actually removing the protective coating that latherin applies? This could possibly change the way in which I think about how I should construct and tailor the saddle pad I am designing. It would not make sense to remove something that is helping the horse fight off infection or fungal growth so how do you create something that can help with removing the sweat without removing the protective latherin? 

        Additionally, when looking at the structure or composition of proteins, it is easier to determine the function of the protein and how it will interact with substances around it. I am definitely curious about how the molecules in the protein latherin are arranged because I think that it may explain some of the unusual qualities of the protein. Latherin is referred to as a globular protein, which is definitely a term that I am unfamiliar with. I think that if I looked at a picture of the typical globular protein it would give me a better understanding of how the molecules are structured and be able to connect the different conclusions of the experiment with the structure of the protein(McDonald, Fleming, Beeley, Bovell, Lu). 

        When finding and choosing this particular experiment to read about, I did not think that it would be particularly helpful because I was quite confident in my knowledge of horse sweat and the best way to control it. This has most definitely changed my thinking as I understand that while sweat on a horse can be harmful and should not be left unattended, it is important to note that there are beneficial parts to the proteins that help secrete the sweat and that particular fact should not be left out of consideration throughout the duration of my original work(McDonald, Fleming, Beeley, Bovell, Lu). There were several parts of the experiment that I did understand but also numerous parts that were outside of my range of knowledge. For example, how does one determine the difference between harmful or beneficial bacteria? Does this particular protein have some kind of protective field around it that keeps it from being denatured? There were many times where it was explained that the protein could fold and unfold to fit a particular environment, but how does that not lead to denaturation? I think most of the questions can be answered with additional research regarding the specifics of biological and chemical terms which would give me a better picture of the purpose and conclusion of this experiment. 

        Overall, this experiment was not only quite interesting but ended up being vital to my research regarding not only my field of interest but also my original work. There is definitely more to the chemical composition of horse sweat and the role it plays which is definitely something that I will need to find more in depth information on in the future. My next steps are not only to continue my research on the actual science behind horse sweat but also how that intertwines with bacteria and fungus and how certain materials can aid in this process.

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