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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Warmwater Aquaculture Research Unit

2010 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 ofmolecular 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 and 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 application to field-based monitoring systems.

3. Progress Report
Specific accomplishments from 2009-2010 include advancements in molecular approaches to bio-marker intensity for enhanced detection of novel end-points and the beginnings of a transition from in vitro systems that optimize our imaging systems to in vivo systems of practical importance and proof-of-concept testing in production-based models. New models have been developed and tested ex vivo for monitoring bacterial pathogens in the mammary gland and reproductive tract (uterus) of the bovine, and are shifting to laparoscopic approaches for infusing and/or monitoring bacterial pathogens under development for technology transfer to in vivo bovine research models (reproductive tract and mammary gland). We are also exploring new laboratory animal models to aid in the development of biophotonic paradigms and speed technology development for livestock-based applications. 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, 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 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. Thermal imaging technologies are 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 species in the production 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.

4. Accomplishments

5. Significant Activities that Support Special Target Populations
Mississippi and other southern states have unique challenges related to their livestock production environments (e.g., heat stress in dairy cattle), disease, and pre-harvest food safety issues (e.g., Salmonella in swine). Unfortunately, many of our experimental models have not been able to take the next step toward solving longstanding problems in the livestock industries. Moreover, many of our new molecular and biotechnological initiatives have not addressed matters that can be translated back to the live animal in a production setting. To this end, there is a critical need for technological innovations that will permit production-based questions to be asked and answered in the context of the living animal. In Mississippi, agriculture is the number one industry, with the poultry, catfish, dairy and meat animal (swine and beef) industries contributing upwards of $2 billion statewide. The costs associated with, for example, infections of the mammary gland in dairy cattle (mastitis results in a $2 billion loss to dairy producers nationwide), the spread of Salmonella in swine (livestock diseases cost our economy $17.5 billion dollars nationwide), or the causes of early embryonic mortality in beef cattle (a loss of $1.4 billion to cattle producers nationwide) are significant. Through this initiative we will develop new (likely patentable) means with which to monitor physiological processes in real-time in the living animal; which may off-set economic losses due to disease or production inefficiencies by the development of non-invasive early warning systems for application to real-world settings.

Review Publications
Burdick, N.C., Carroll, J.A., Hulbert, L.E., Dailey, J.W., Willard, S.T., Vann, R.C., Welsh Jr, T.H., Randel, R.D. 2010. Relationships Between Temperament and Transportation With Rectal Temperature and Serum Concentrations of Cortisol and Epinephrine in Bulls. Livestock Science. 129:166-172.

Curbelo, J., Moulton, K., Willard, S. 2009. Photonic Characteristics and Ex Vivo Imaging of Escherichia coli-Xen14 Within the Bovine Reproductive Tract. Theriogenology. 73:48-55.

Sykes, D.J., Couvillion, J.S., Martin, J.M., Althen, T.G., Rude, B.J., Crenshaw, M., Gerald, P., Ryan, P.L. 2010. Comparison of Ground Raw Soybean and Soybean Meal Diets on Carcass Traits of Gilts. Journal of Muscle Foods. 21:509-518.

Moulton, K., Ryan, P., Lay Jr, D.C., Willarad, S. 2009. Photonic Plasmid Stability of Transformed Salmonella Typhimurium: A Comparison of Three Unique Plasmids. BMC Microbiology. 9:152-159.

Ryan, P.L., Christiansen, D.L., Bagell, C.A., Vaala, W.E. 2009. Evaluation of Systemic Relaxin Blood Profiles in Horses as A Means of Assessing Placental Function in High-Risk Pregnancies and Responsiveness to Therapeutic Strategies. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1160:169-178.

Last Modified: 10/17/2017
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