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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Warmwater Aquaculture Research Unit

2011 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
Specific accomplishments from 2010-2011 include advancing our biophotonic imaging from in vitro to in vivo in some highly technical models (e.g., mastitis monitoring in dairy cattle). In addition, advancements in molecular approaches in bio-marker identification, new uses of doppler sonography, and continued development of gamete and embryo systems for developmental monitoring are all significant research directions achieved this reporting period. New laboratory animal models have been initiated to speed development of biophotonic paradigms for livestock-based applications. These have been accomplished using amphibian model paradigms which allow us to use larger egg and embryo systems to test feasibility of our developmental monitoring approaches. Studies are also 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, and we have successfully achieved intrafollicular transfection and gene detection in these systems. Biomarkers are also being identified for oocytes and embryos using proteomic approaches, protein-receptor studies and gene transcription-biophotonic paradigms. Studies are also using biophotonic modalities for studying wound infection model systems (in collaboration with industry partners) and studies aimed at evidenced-based veterinary medicine to determine the best possible drug combinations (antibiotics and immuno-modulators) to treat mares presented with uterine infections during late gestation. These novel preliminary research directions may facilitate new clinical avenues for biophotonic-based research in the near future. Thermal imaging technologies remain a focus of our research, being applied to the monitoring of (1) reproductive function in livestock; (2) mammary physiology in dairy cattle; and (3) measures of thermal comfort (e.g., energetics) and/or stress-related responses among livestock and other species (e.g., avian) in the production or natural environment. In summary, accomplishments under the Biophotonics Initiative as applied to agricultural livestock, and some peripheral applications for model development, are yielding new research tools which have the potential to develop translatable technologies for an enhanced understanding of physiological processes to improve agricultural livestock production, health and/or overall profitability. ADODR used site visit, email and telephone conferences to monitor activities of the project.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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