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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Warmwater Aquaculture Research Unit

2009 Annual Report

1a.Objectives (from AD-416)
The objective of this research area is to develop novel imaging technologies aimed at confronting critical issues facing production animal agriculture by monitoring, in real-time, cellular and molecular processing in the context of the living organism. Specific research projects will cover a broad range of research in the cellular and molecular biological sciences, disease-environment interactions, animal-plant interfaces, and growth and developmental physiology with applications aimed at understanding physiological mechanisms with a specific emphasis on enhancing production performance in livestock.

1b.Approach (from AD-416)
As part of this initiative, novel technologies which utilize the photon (light), thermal signatures (heat), spectroscopy and fluorescence will be adapted to cellular- and molecular-based strategies to permit physiological processes to be monitored in a dynamic fashion at the levels of single, living cells to entire organisms in vivo. These non-invasive technologies (e.g., biophotonics, using light as a quantitative indicator beacon of molecular events) will enable the expression of genes, the invasiveness of bacteria, the breakdown of plant or dietary components, or hormone-receptor interactions to be visualized in living systems both in the laboratory, the field, and under traditional livestock production environments. Faculty with expertise in functional imaging will interface with collaborating scientists working in the animal, plant and veterinary sciences to develop these novel systems aimed at addressing specific hypothesis-driven and production-based questions. Results from this initiative will not only develop new models to advance scientific progress in reproductive biology, food safety, disease, plant-animal interactions, and environmental physiology, but will also develop technological advancements that will address experimentally critical questions which heretofore have not been addressable in living systems. Finally, we will expand the use of biophotonic-based technologies to address physiological questions in animals with potential applications to field-based monitoring systems.

3.Progress Report

The ADODR has monitored progress through email communication with the cooperator. Specific accomplishments include the continued development of novel chemical means to improve biomarker detection, development of improved detection devices (e.g., new photonic imaging camera interfaces), advancements in molecular approaches to bio-marker intensity for enhanced detection of novel end-points, and new (minimally invasive) imaging modalities (e.g., laparoscopic approaches) that can be applied to production-based models. Building on our previous research in swine (Salmonella), sheep (E. coli) and horses (Streptococcus), new disease models have been developed and tested ex vivo for monitoring bacterial pathogens in the mammary gland and reproductive tract (uterus) of the bovine, in vitro using an artificial rumen to evaluate bacterial presence among varying densities of feedstuffs, and the development of models related to bacterial transmission from contaminated fecal matter by flies using biophotonic tracking methodologies. Laparoscopic approaches for infusing and/or monitoring bacterial pathogens are under development for technology transfer to in vivo bovine research models (reproductive tract and mammary gland). In conjunction, studies are underway to develop an intrafollicular ovarian microinjection method to transfect the living follicles in vivo to monitor estrogen-regulated genes during the growth of follicles on the ovary. To extend this application, studies are also using biophotonic gene regulation modalities for studying dietary restriction influences on gene regulation as related to the developing fetus and ovarian function, as well as development of transgenic (photonic) embryos for constitutive expression of target genes using biophotonic detection systems. Finally, novel thermal imaging technologies are being applied to the monitoring of (1) bovine and equine reproductive function; (2) mammary physiology in dairy cattle; and (3) measures of thermal comfort among livestock species in the production environment (heat stress and heat load) and/or captive environments of non-domestic and domestic species as models of diversity and unique physiological heat dissipation mechanisms. In summary, Biophotonics Initiative accomplishments applied to agricultural livestock, and peripheral applications for model development, are yielding new research tools with the potential to develop translatable technologies for an enhanced understanding of physiological processes to improve agricultural livestock production, health and/or overall profitability.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
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