Summer Scholars Project Proposals

Summer 2020 Project Proposals

Comparative Biomedicine

Comparative Biomedicine

Project Title: Neuroinflammation associated with sequential TBI in a rodent model
Mentor(s): Cheeran
Contact: cheeran@umn.edu

Project Description: A concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury (TBI) and most patients recover without significant CNS pathology. But these patients are susceptible to the development of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric complications after a ‘second hit’ or repetitive TBI, which is common among soldiers and athletes. The present study hypothesizes that a second injury after a mild TBI will result in an enhanced neuroinflammatory response which persists longer and results in greater behavioral deficits. We also posit that treatment with a stem cell therapy will decrease the window of susceptibility for the second hit to elicit an exaggerated immune response in the brain.

Techniques Used: Flow cytometry, IHC, behavior assays and RT-PCR

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine, Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: Magnetic Resonance Imaging of degenerative disc disease in dogs
Mentor(s): Johnson
Contact: john5037@umn.edu

Project Description: Degenerative disc disease (DDD) is a major health problem for both dogs and humans. In dogs, gradual degeneration of the intervertebral discs in the spine can lead to their rupture, which can compress and damage the nerves of the spinal cord. There is a clinical need for new, noninvasive imaging techniques that can predict whether a disc will rupture so that preventative treatment can be applied. In humans, DDD is a primary cause of low back pain, which is the most common musculoskeletal impairment and a leading cause of disability. Current research into the mechanisms and therapies for DDD in humans largely relies on induced animal models that poorly mimic the pathophysiology and mechanisms of the human disease. Dogs are the only available large animal model that spontaneously develop DDD and thus have significant comparative advantages for studying the disease and its treatment. The goal of this summer project is to investigate new magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques to detect and characterize disc degeneration in dogs. Specifically, the summer scholar will seek to establish quantitative MRI measures of the biochemical and biomechanical properties of canine intervertebral discs. Several canine vertebral column specimens from the thoracolumbar region of the spine, each with 10 intervertebral discs, will be imaged using quantitative 3T MRI techniques. Half of the discs will then undergo biomechanical testing to assess the disc biomechanical properties and subsequent analysis of the biochemical composition of the disc (glycosaminoglycan, collagen, and water content). The other half of the discs will be processed for histological analysis to characterize any pathology and the distribution of tissue components. The summer scholar will work with a interdisciplinary team to conduct these tasks and analyze the data. This project is the key rst step toward implementation of new MRI techniques to assess DDD in dogs for both their clinical care and for advancing understanding of human DDD through comparative medicine.

Techniques Used: magnetic resonance imaging, biomechanical testing, histology, data analysis, scientific communication (presentation and writing)

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine


Project Title: Reprogramming the tumor immune niche in canine hemangiosarcoma 
Mentor(s): Kim
Contact: jhkim@umn.edu

Project Description: Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is a common, devastating disease of dogs. HSA occurs more frequently in older golden retrievers, German Shepherd Dogs, Portuguese water dogs, Labrador retrievers, and Schnauzers. The incidence of HSA has been estimated at approximately 7% of all canine cancers, accounting for an estimated 50,000 occurrences per year in the United States. Despite intense efforts to develop effective treatments, there have been no significant improvements in survival for HSA since the introduction of adjuvant chemotherapy almost 40 years ago.
We have identified distinct molecular subtypes classifoed into angiogenic, inflammatory, and adipogenic HSA. The inflammatory subtype of HSA appears to be associated with prolonged survival. A highly inflamed tumor niche is a feature of canine HSA; but the role of tumor immunity is virtually unknown in this disease. In this project, we will focus on understanding the functional relationships between HSA cells and immune cells that regulate critical signaling pathways and identify molecular mechanisms associated with creating the tumor niche in canine HSA.
We hypothesize that the molecular programs which create the tumor niche are reversible in canine HSA, and that PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathways regulate the expression of inflammatory cytokines that supports the niche conditioning. First, we will determine if activation of PI3K signaling in HSA cells supports expansion and differentiation of hematopoietic progenitors. Long-term culture initiating cell and hematopoietic colony forming unit assays will be performed by co-culture of CD34+ cord blood cells with HSA cells. Small molecular inhibitors will be used to inhibit PI3K signaling. Then, we will examine if PI3K/AKT/mTOR pathways regulate the expression of inflammatory cytokines in HSA cells. We will profile gene expression of inflammatory cytokines using RNA- Seq and polymerase chain reaction, as well as protein expression using canine multiplex cytokine/chemokine assays.
We anticipate that activation of PI3K signaling pathways in canine HSA cells will expand CD34+ cord blood cells and promote hematopoietic colony formation. We also expect that activation of PI3K signaling pathways will enrich gene signature associated with immune functions in HSA cells, and will increase secretion of inflammatory cytokines including IL-6, IL- 8 and MCP-1. This project will provide insights into mechanisms that alter tumor immune microenvironment, and in turn could help us design and develop more effective therapies for dogs with HSA.

Techniques Used: Cell culture, PCR, ELISA, Western Blot, Co-culture, Long-term culture initiating cell and hematopoietic colony forming unit assays

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine, Skadron Family Scholarship


Project Title: Role of gut microbiome in 2 models of hypertension 
Mentor(s): Collister
Contact: colli066@umn.edu

Project Description: According to the CDC, hypertension affects 70 million American adults (~30%) and nearly 700 million people worldwide. It is the most signicant risk factor for myocardial infarction and stroke, the first and third most frequent cause of death in Europe and the United States. Despite decades of research, the underlying cause of hypertension in most cases remains unknown. The study of the healthy gut microbiome and its imbalances in pathophysiological states are certainly areas of intense research currently. Interestingly, there is limited information in the literature on the link between the microbiome and hypertension. Our lab has demonstrated a role of the hypothalamic organum vasculosum of the lamina terminalis (OVLT), a circumventricular organ that has direct connections to the paraventricular nucleus to increase sympathetic activity, in the hypertensive response to both Angiotensin II (AngII) and DOCA (water soluble form of aldosterone) treated rats. We know the gut is the most highly innervated peripheral organ with numerous sympathetic fibers. We propose an OVLT- sympathetic-gut microbiome axis in the pathogenesis of hypertension. In this project, we will examine the intestinal microbiome in two inducible rodent models of hypertension in OVLT lesioned and control rats to address the following AIMs: 1) What are the effects on the microbiome in chronic AngII and DOCA hypertensive rats? 2) Does OVLT lesion restore the microbiome while attenuating AngII and DOCA hypertension in the rat? 3) Does ileal transplantation from OVLT lesioned rats prevent or treat AngII and DOCA hypertension in the rat? In other words, the following hypothesis will be tested: OVLT lesion prevents the changes in gut microbiota and increased blood pressure in AngII and DOCA hypertension. In order to test this hypothesis, OVLT lesioned (or sham) instrumented rats will be treated with either AngII or DOCA, and cross-transplanted with ileal content during the hypertensive treatment. Continuous measurements of mean arterial pressure (MAP) and heart rate (HR) will be made via radio-telemetry. Rather than using fecal samples, direct microbiota analyses from jejunum, ileum, cecum and colon will be performed.

Techniques Used: Training will begin with the surgical procedures involved with chronic instrumentation of the rat. Students will learn one or more of the following techniques: placement of a chronic indwelling femoral IV and ileal catheters, and/or placement of the blood pressure transducer catheter in the abdominal aorta, as well as anesthesia, general surgical aseptic technique and monitoring of the surgical patient during anesthesia. Students will learn daily metabolic measurements of rodents housed in metabolic cages, computer data compilation of continuous collections of heart rate and blood pressure data via radio telemetry in one of the aforementioned models of hypertension. Lastly, students will learn the proper techniques of euthanizing experimental rats, and harvesting brain and gut tissues for histological and microbial genomic analyses, respectively.

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine


Project Title: Altered mitochondrial homeostasis with age-related macular degeneration progression
Mentor(s): Ferrington
Contact: ferri013@umn.edu

Project Description: Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in older adults in the developed world. While the pathological mechanism(s) have not been elucidated, converging evidence from multiple studies reporting decreased mitochondrial mass, disruption of internal structures, and lower count of electron transport chain proteins implicate mitochondrial dysfunction with AMD pathology. Our lab has found increased damage to the mitochondrial DNA in retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) at stages of AMD prior to vision loss, supporting the hypothesis that mitochondrial defects are key event in AMD onset and progression. The aim of this on-going project is to investigate the mechanism causing the mitochondrial DNA damage by identifying changes in the RPE mitochondrial proteome. Students will use methods such as Western Blots and mass spectrometry to identify protein changes between RPE from age-matched non-disease controls and AMD donors. This project will provide training and a background in understanding how the proteome can be altered with disease, giving the student knowledge that can be applied to other diseases that they may choose to study in their future.

Techniques Used: Primary literature searches, tissue processing, biochemical analysis including bicinchoninic acid assay, Western blot, label-free quantitative mass spectrometry-based proteomics, bioinformatics of the proteome data base, statistical analysis

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine


Project Title: Novel approaches to treating epilepsy
Mentor(s): Krook-Magnuson
Contact: ekrookma@umn.edu

Project Description: Projects will focus on determining novel approaches to inhibit seizures and improve outcomes for temporal lobe epilepsy using mouse models, on-demand intervention methods, and other cutting-edge approaches.

Techniques Used: Mouse model of chronic temporal lobe epilepsy; rodent cranial surgeries including implants; tissue processing; on-demand intervention strategies

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine


Project Title: Developing new canine immunotherapies 
Mentor(s): Walcheck and Wu
Contact: walch003@umn.edu

Project Description: Our lab is actively involved in developing cancer immunotherapies for humans and companion animals. One focus has been on engineering human natural killer (NK) cells with enhanced Fc receptors that engage therapeutic antibodies that target tumor cells. One of our recombinant receptors has been expressed in induced human pluripotent stem cells that were differentiated into NK cells. The first patient worldwide to ever receive this novel cell therapy occurred in 2019 at the University of Minnesota in an ongoing clinical trial. We are attempting to apply this same method in dogs to treat cancer. Our approaches include characterizing canine NK cells, designing and testing recombinant receptors to engage anti-tumor antibodies, expressing them in NK cell platforms, and testing the function of the engineered cells. The summer scholar will be involved in these novel studies to help advance our goal of developing effective immunotherapies for cancer in dogs. Techniques the summer scholar will be exposed to include cancer cell cytotoxicity assays, leukocyte functional assays, cell culture, and flow cytometry among others. The Summer Scholar will work with trained researchers to learn cutting edge techniques and develop an independent project and novel data.

Techniques Used: Cancer cell cytotoxicity assays; leukocyte functional assays; tissue cell culture; flow cytometry

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine, Skadron Family Scholarship, Morris Animal Foundation


Project Title: Role of antioxidants in protection of dystrophic cardiomyopathy 
Mentor(s): Townsend
Contact: town0045@umn.edu

Project Description: Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a genetic disease resulting in the progressive development of muscle wasting and heart disease. Animal models of this disease develop significant cardiomyopathy following just a single bout of cardiac stress. The cardiac injury resulting from this stress is largely averted by treatment with pharmacological inhibition of angiotensin II signaling. Other studies suggest that improving the endogenous defenses against oxidative damage may provide protection against cardiac stress in the dystrophic heart. This project will explore this hypothesis through in vivo and in vitro preparations.

Techniques Used: Immuofluorescence, microscopy, and western blotting

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine


Project Title: In vitro and in vivo evaluation of induced pluripotent stem cell derived chondrocytes 
Mentor(s): Toth and O’Brien
Contact: ftoth@umn.edu

Project Description: In recent years, cell-based therapies, such as autologous chondrocyte implantation (ACI), have gained interest for the treatment of cartilage defects. ACI has been associated with good results in 60-90% of patients but its wider adoption is hampered by the morbidity and cost of the additional surgical procedure required to harvest autologous chondrocytes for cell culture. Thus, other sources of cells that are easily accessible and have the potential to restore articular cartilage are of great interest. One option entails utilization of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) as a source of chondrocytes. We have recently discovered a novel method to induce differentiation of hyaline cartilage from iPSCs via the initial formation of brain organoids. The current research project entails evaluation of alternative culture conditions to further improve the cartilage formation in iPSC- derived organoids while diminishing neural components (Aim 1) and testing the ability of organoid derived chondrocytes to facilitate repair of induced cartilage defects in vivo in a goat model (Aim 2). We expect that by the time the summer student will join us we will have accomplished most of the first aim of the study and will be starting the in vivo evaluation of the chondrocytes in a goat model.

Techniques Used: Cell culture, cell seeding on scaffolds, implantation of scaffolds into induced cartilage defects, post operative care and monitoring of research animals, histologic processing of post mortem cartilage specimens

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine, Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: Investigating and validation of the genetic bases of cardiac arrhythmias including atrial fibrillation in Standardbreds 
Mentor(s): McCue and Durward-Akhurst
Contact: mccu0173@umn.edu

Project Description: Sudden death has a devastating impact on the racing industry and there are major safety concerns. Of the hundreds of horses that die on the track each year, the cause of death is not identified for 47% of them. Cardiac arrhythmias are thought to explain a large number of these cases. Most horses that develop arrhythmias have no underlying structural heart disease, making it virtually impossible to detect those that will develop arrhythmias. Arrhythmias in human athletes without underlying structural heart disease are almost exclusively caused by variants in ion channel genes. Given the similarities between arrhythmias in humans and horses, it is likely that variants in genes responsible for cardiac arrhythmias in humans are associated with alterations in ECG measurements and the presence of arrhythmias in horses. We have identified 36 high priority putative arrhythmia-causing variants in genes associated with human arrhythmias, using whole genome sequencing (WGS) of 6 Standardbreds with atrial fibrillation (AFIB). We hypothesize that one or more of these variants are associated with electrocardiography (ECG) measurements and cardiac arrhythmias in Standardbreds. In this proposal we will confirm/refute association between these 36 putative arrhythmia-causing variants and: 1) ECG measurements; 2) transient exercise-associated cardiac arrhythmias; and 3) AFIB in Standardbred racehorses. In objective 1 we will ECG 500 Standardbred racehorses before, during, and after high-intensity exercise, and test for associations between the 36 variants and 6 standard ECG measurements. In objectives 2 and 3 we test for associations between the 36 variants and the presence of: 2) transient exercise- associated cardiac arrhythmias; and 3) AFIB. Our long-term goal is to develop genetic tests for cardiac arrhythmias, particularly AFIB, to allow for increased monitoring of genetically at-risk horses, allowing for retirement from racing BEFORE the onset of potentially fatal arrhythmias. Genetic tests can be used to inform future breeding decisions, to allow breeders to decrease the incidence of arrhythmias in their breeding animals.

Techniques Used: Collection and interpretation of ECGs in racehorses with AFIB; comparison of the AliveCore© handheld ECG to the TeleVet ECG for identification of cardiac arrhythmias in horses; interpretation of cardiac ultrasound of apparently health Standardbred racehorses with cardiac arrhythmias; DNA isolation; Agena Bioscience IPLEX bioassay genotyping and statistical analyses; candidate gene investigation 


Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine, Morris Animal Foundation, Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: Gene expression of zebra mussels following exposure to copper sulfate 
Mentor(s): Phelps
Contact: phelp083@umn.edu

Project Description: Zebra mussels (Dreissenia polymorpha) are an invasive freshwater bivalve that cause long- lasting negative impacts in aquatic ecosystems, including changes to food webs, alterations of fish communities, and extirpation of native mussel populations. Zebra mussels first appeared in Minnesota in 1989 and have since spread to inhabit about 200 lakes in the state. Today, scientists and resource managers are working to develop immediate control methods to suppress zebra mussel populations, while simultaneously exploring the genome to determine long-lasting genetic control mechanisms. One promising immediate control method is through use of copper-based pesticides. While this treatment is successful in the lab and in the lake, little is known about the mechanisms of how or why the pesticide is an effective control in this species. This summer project will investigate how copper sulfate impacts gene expression in zebra mussels in the lab, contributing to our understanding of how copper sulfate operates as a control, and potentially aiding in the long-term development of genetic control strategies.

Techniques Used: RNA-Seq, aquatic animal husbandry, best lab practices

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine


Project Title: Turning cancer cells against themselves
Mentor(s): Boris-Lawrie
Contact: kbl@umn.edu

Project Description: Our goal is to kill cancer cells by reprogramming their protein synthesis machinery. In the clinic, Torin is used to block tumor protein synthesis and stop the cell cycle in G2/M. Whereas Torin stops tumor growth with good efficacy, tumor growth reemerges when Torin treatment is discontinued. Interestingly, the Torin response is different in healthy cells. The goal of this project is to translate beneficial protein synthesis in healthy cells to kill tumor cells.

Techniques Used: Tissue culture, basic molecular biology techniques

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine


Project Title: Immune response to mosquito bite in mice with diverse microbial experience
Mentor(s): Aliota
Contact: mtaliota@umn.edu

Project Description: The saliva of hematophages, including mosquitoes, is a cocktail of potent pharmacologically active components that prevents clotting and causes vasodilation, as well as alters the inflammatory and immune response, to help facilitate blood feeding. Arthropod-borne pathogens exploit this system to infect new vertebrate hosts, and there are many examples demonstrating that arthropod saliva can enhance the replication and pathogenesis of numerous arthropod-borne pathogens. Indeed, this phenomenon was rst described more than three decades ago when it was recognized that the small amounts of arthropod-derived molecules present in sand y saliva could significantly alter Leishmania parasite infectivity. It also has been observed that a history of exposure to uninfected arthropod bites can confer protection on the host, preventing vector-borne infections in some instances. Therefore, saliva delivered to the host by a vector arthropod may have a critical impact on the initial infection in the skin and may modulate the local innate and adaptive immune response. But it is not known why there is heterogeneity in pathogenic outcomes and what role cutaneous pathways play in skewing outcomes towards pathogenesis versus resistance. A critical impediment to understanding the immunologic consequences of mosquito saliva has been the availability of appropriate, tractable animal models, particularly the lack of better mouse models. Therefore, this project will use mice with diverse microbial experiences (“dirty mice”) to characterize the immunologic events in the vertebrate host, which occur during and after blood feeding by mosquitoes, in the skin and systemically.

Techniques Used: Cell culture; molecular cloning; flow cytometry; classical virology approaches; RT-PCR: Immune assays

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine


Project Title: Performance of variant pathogenicity prediction methods in veterinary species 
Mentor(s): Furrow
Contact: furro004@umn.edu

Project Description: Many devastating hereditary diseases affecting humans also spontaneous occur in large animal models (e.g. dogs, cats, horses). Genetic characterization of the large animal models of disease can uncover novel susceptibility genes to explore in humans. It can also be important in application of the model for translational research. Resources and techniques for genetics research are rapidly advancing and have improved the ability to detect genetic variants. However, a key challenge is prioritizing these variants and determining which is disease- causing versus which are benign. Many programs have been developed as tools to help evaluate variants and predict their effect, but these programs have not yet been validated for analysis of data from veterinary species. The aim of this project is to evaluate the performance of these programs in dogs, cats, and horses. Our laboratory also has multiple projects which aim to determine disease-causing variants in dogs and cats. Examples of diseases under investigation include urinary stone disease, hyperlipidemia, and neurologic disorders. The student would be involved in these projects as well to gain exposure to comparative medical genetics and basic bench work techniques.

Techniques Used: Statistical analyses, some basic computing/coding, critical review of scientific literature, PCR, DNA sequencing analysis

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine


Project Title: Distant Effects of Radiation Therapy on the Brain
Mentor(s): Seelig and Lawrence
Contact: dseelig@umn.edu

Project Description: Cancer related cognitive impairment (CRCI) is a syndrome of decreased memory, attention, executive function, and processing speed that affects up to 76% of treated non-CNS cancer patients and persists for 5-10 years after treatment. Although CRCI is currently thought to result primarily from the systemic effects of chemotherapy, it is unknown whether the non- target effects of ionizing radiation play a role. Our long-term goal is to identify mechanisms by which extracranial radiation therapy (ECRT) exerts distant brain effects and contributes to CRCI to inform novel therapeutic development. Our previous studies have shown that ECRT induces significant brain inflammation, however the cognitive impact of this inflammation or the mediators responsible for it are unknown. Our central hypothesis is that ECRT induces cognitive impairment via the circulatory delivery of systemic pro-inflammatory mediators and resulting brain inflammation. Our scientific premise is that ECRT results in the production of circulating pro-inflammatory mediators that penetrate the brain to cause brain inflammation and cognitive decline, as is seen in sepsis, HIV, and metabolic-disease related neurocognitive disorders. Over the course of the project, we are testing the following specific aims: 1) evaluate the cognitive impact of ECRT-induced brain inflammation in non-tumor bearing mice and 2) determine the role of circulating pro-inflammatory cytokines in ECRT-induced brain inflammation. During the summer of 2020, we anticipate student involvement in studies directed at: 1) characterizing the in vitro responses of immortalized and primary microglia when exposed to direct or indirect radiation therapy and/or 2) evaluating the cognitive impairments of irradiated mice.

Techniques Used: Cell culture, flow cytometry, mouse behavioral analysis, immunostaining and microscopy

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine, Skadron Family Scholarship


Project Title: Assessment of antibiotic use in small animal practice
Mentor(s): Granick and Beaudoin
Contact: grani003@umn.edu

Project Description: Based upon data from the year-long Veterinary Medical Center Antibiotic Use Point Prevalence Survey, we have identified that close to 10% of core service outpatients are prescribed antibiotics for intestinal dysbiosis. Additional data is required to understand the specific clinical and prescriber factors associated with these prescriptions and devise an effective antimicrobial stewardship intervention. The summer scholar student will work with the mentor to design a retrospective study to determine patient, clinicopathologic and service-related factors associated with antibiotic prescriptions in patients with intestinal dysbiosis. In addition to medical record data extraction, the student will design a knowledge attitudes and practices survey for prescribers. Following data analysis and presentation of current practices to clinical services, the student will work with services and the mentor to develop a clinical algorithm, based upon literature review, to guide diagnostics and treatment for the quality improvement target and ensure stakeholder agreement on the algorithm.

Techniques Used: Medical record extraction, data collection and analysis; knowledge of antibiotic stewardship and resistance; survey development; qualitative interview development and analysis; development of antibiotic stewardship intervention.

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine

Emerging, Zoonotic, and Infectious Disease

Emerging, Zoonotic, and Infectious Disease

Project Title: Epidemiology of meningeal worm mortalities in Minnesota
Mentor(s): Wolf and Wunschmann
Contact: wolfx305@umn.edu

Project Description: Parelaphostrongylus tenuis is a parasitic nematode that infects and causes morbidity and mortality in a number of ruminant hosts in Minnesota, including goats, sheep, camelids, and moose. Anecdotal reports from small ruminant owners suggests that there may be epidemic cycles or outbreaks in herds that may span years. While seasonal exposures are expected given the life cycle of this parasite, there is little reported in the literature in regard to the temporal epidemiology of this disease. We aim to explore further the epidemiology of confirmed P. tenuis cases that have been submitted to the VDL from 2001-2019. This project will involve extracting from VDL pathology records, data on species, age, sex, date of mortality, location of origin, and any accompanying history of clinical signs. The summer scholar will use this data to create an epidemiological summary of those cases, including an epidemic curve of cases over time and a map of case origin. Depending on the number of cases retrieved from the VDL database, there may be opportunity to statistically explore for temporal and spatial clusters of disease.

Techniques Used: Epidemiological exploration of data, basic epidemiological mapping, possibly spatio-temporal cluster analysis

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine, Morris Animal Foundation


Project Title: Understanding the transmission of influenza and PRRS viruses in pigs
Mentor(s): Torremorell
Contact: torr0033@umn.edu

Project Description: Influenza and porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome viruses are important pig pathogens that cause significant economic losses to producers, and in the case of influenza can be a threat to public health. My group focuses on understanding the transmission of important pig viruses, what factors contribute to the persistence of these viruses in pig populations and what measures are effective at controlling and preventing them. The students interested in the research of pig diseases will have the opportunity to participate and lead research efforts in the area of influenza and PRRSV transmission and biosecurity. The students will participate in the design of projects and will have the opportunity to work in the lab and in the field. Students are encouraged to bring forward research ideas and initiatives in the area of disease transmission and mitigation strategies to minimize disease's impact.

Techniques Used: Study design; RT-PCR; RNA extraction; sample processing; sample collection

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: Increasing Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae eradication success by investigating antimicrobial susceptibility 
Mentor(s): Pieters and Morante
Contact: piet0094@umn.edu

Project Description: Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae is one of the most significant bacteria causing respiratory disease in pigs. Controlling M. hyopneumoniae infections in the field is challenging due to the chronicity and the endemic nature of the infection, the partial protection of vaccines, and the fact that eradication is not always achieved by antimicrobial treatments. In this context, little is known about M. hyopneumoniae antimicrobial susceptibility, as antibiograms are not routinely performed. The overall objective of this project is to investigate the role of M. hyopneumoniae antimicrobial resistance on the success of eradication programs. With this purpose, a PCR based test that targets genes related to antimicrobial susceptibility in M. hyopneumoniae is being developed. Specifically, the student will be involved in the evaluation of the predictive value of this PCR test in M. hyopneumoniae eradication success. Once validated the PCR test, the student will be implicated in testing 1) Clinical samples submitted to the University of Minnesota Diagnostic Veterinary Laboratory belonging to farms that have undergone eradication programs (retrospective investigation) and 2) Clinical samples collected from farms in which M. hyopneumoniae eradication protocols are to be applied (prospective investigation).
This work looks into identifying putative relevant mutations in target genes that would correlate with the antimicrobial use and the eradication outcomes. Altogether, these results will lead to greater disease eradication successes and judicious antimicrobial use.

Techniques Used: By enrolling to this program, the student will be implicated in the following activities: management practices in pig farms; handling of pigs; sampling procedures in pigs; handling of clinical specimens; extraction of DNA from clinical samples; amplification of DNA by real-time PCR; elaboration of data bases with the obtained results; data analysis and interpretation 


Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: Investigation of koi herpesvirus in fish in Minnesota 
Mentor(s): Phelps and Mor
Contact: phelp083@umn.edu

Project Description: Common carp (Cyprinus carpio), herein referred to as carp, is a ubiquitous and destructive invasive fish in Minnesota and much of the world. It is estimated that plant cover has been lost in over 70% of lakes in southern MN due to carp’s foraging activity. There is an urgency to develop species-specific, highly effective, and cost-efficient approaches that can be used as part of an integrated pest management strategy. One tool with the potential for large-scale control of carp populations is pathogen biocontrol. Koi herpesvirus (KHV) is a candidate pathogen worthy of further investigation given that 1) KHV causes mass mortalities of wild carp in MN and neighboring states, 2) There is no evidence of non-carp mortality in natural KHV outbreaks, and 3) we have developed the capacity to culture the virus in vitro. However, important critical information gaps must be addressed before the experimental release of KHV could be considered. Disease dynamics of KHV in relation to its host and environment will ultimately determine the effectiveness of KHV biocontrol. Though many variables are at play in any host-pathogen system, this large multi-year project will focus on the following topics during the 2020 summer field season: 1) gathering data on rates of transmission and mortality for KHV using selected strains of KHV from MN, 2) gathering data on existing infectious host populations in lakes with a history of KHV, and 3) determining what age classes of carp are most susceptible to KHV through lab trials. Details of the summer scholar project will be determined based on the student's interest.

Techniques Used: Depending on the scope of the student's research interest, they may learn field techniques (boat electrofishing, netting fish), lab techniques (diagnostic exam and necropsy of fish), and wet lab techniques (fish husbandry, infection trials)

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine, Morris Animal Foundation


Project Title: Disease ecology modeling 
Mentor(s): Craft
Contact: craft@umn.edu

Project Description: A research opportunity is available to develop research projects on disease transmission within animal populations. The goal of the research would be to understand the spread and control of infectious diseases in wild or domestic animal populations. Fundamental research questions of interest include: (i) How are pathogens that infect multiple animal species maintained? and (ii) How does host social structure and movement affect the spread of infectious disease? This would likely involve testing hypotheses regarding infectious disease dynamics by using real world data in mathematical models. Mathematical models are critical tools in the fight against infectious diseases—they allow for virtual experiments that would otherwise be unethical or unachievable in the real world. Model output can be used to predict disease dynamics, and can guide and prioritize future disease monitoring and disease control strategies. Contact networks are a modeling tool often relevant to pathogen transmission in wildlife and in production animals. In the past, summer students have participated in the design of the study and have capitalized on the opportunity to take the lead on writing a peer- reviewed manuscript.

Techniques Used: Hypotheses formulation, study design and implementation, data sourcing and cleanup, statistical techniques using the program R, working with a diverse group of collaborators, writing a manuscript (optional)

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: Developing a ELISA for diagnosis of Mycoplasma hyopneumoniae 
Mentor(s): Cheeran and Pieters
Contact: cheeran@umn.edu

Project Description: M. hyopneumoniae is considered one of the most prevalent bacterial pathogens associated with respiratory infections in pigs. Rapid detection of M. hyopneumoniae is essential for efficient implementation of control and containment strategies in swine farms. Our long-term goal is to develop a portable diagnostic immunoassay platform that can perform pen-side testing for M. hyopneumoniae directly from clinical samples with minimum requirements for sample handling and laboratory skills. In order to develop these handheld tests, there is a need for antibodies that detect M. hyopneumoniae but do not cross-react with other commensal or other pathogenic species of swine mycoplasma. We have developed 3 monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) that were specific to M. hyopneumoniae, which showed no cross-reactivity to M. hyorhinis and M. flocculare antigens but detected all ten M. hyopneumoniae isolates tested that were obtained from different swine farms. This project will further characterize these antibodies for cross-reactivity to M. hyosynoviae and quantify its ability to detect M hyopneumoniae in common clinical sample matrices used for diagnosis of respiratory infection in pigs. We expect that these MAbs when used in a testing system with improved specificity, may provide the swine industry with a more effective tool for screening and monitoring M. hyopneumoniae infection in swine production systems.

Techniques Used: ELISA development; purification and production of monoclonal antibodies; western blot

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: Development of new virus-vectored vaccines for livestock 
Mentor(s): Ly and Liang
Contact: hly@umn.edu

Project Description: Using a patented reverse genetics system for the Pichinde virus, we plan to develop various new vaccines to protect turkeys, chickens, or swine against lethal infection by either viral or bacterial pathogens.

Techniques Used: Molecular biology; DNA cloning and mutagenesis; Western blotting; qRT-PCR; immunological assays; virus and mammalian cell cultivation techniques

Eligible Funding: NIH T35, Boehringer Ingelheim, College of Veterinary Medicine


Project Title: Virus associated cutaneous sarcomas in a mallard 
Mentor(s): Wunschmann and Mor
Contact: wunsc001@umn.edu

Project Description: Polyomaviruses cause tumors in laboratory rodents but natural occurrence of polyomavirus- associated tumors has not reported. Several avian polyomaviruses have been identified but none of them are associated with neoplasia. Using electron microscopy, we identified intranuclear viral particles in two concurrent separate spindle cell sarcomas with cartilaginous differentiation in an individual mallard. The morphology and size of the viral particles were most consistent with a polyomavirus. We plan on examining formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded tumor tissue for polyomaviral DNA by PCR and sequencing to verify the electron microscopic identification. We will prepare a case report-type manuscript that will be submitted to a suitable journal.

Techniques Used: Case specific gross pathology and histopathology; interpretation of case specific electron microscopic images; PCR; Sanger sequencing; phylogenetic analysis; literature review

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

Population Systems

Population Systems

Project Title: Applying precision dairy farming and diagnostic technologies to predict hyperketonemia in dairy cows: a field study
Mentor(s): Caixeta
Contact: lcaixeta@umn.edu

Project Description: The objective of this study will be to confirm the viability of a diagnostic system to predict hyperketonemia (KET) post-partum using a multivariable metabolic index (MI) developed by our laboratory. This MI uses metabolic markers measured during the pre-partum period to predict the probability of the development of hyperketonemia (KET) during the subsequent lactation in Holstein dairy cows. Hyperketonemia is defined by elevated blood concentrations of β-hydroxybutyrate (BHB > 1.2mmol/L) and have been associated with disease occurrence, decreased milk production, poor reproductive performance, and increased culling rates. Although, diet and milk production greatly affect the levels of BHB in circulation during early lactation, a recent studies showed that abnormal pre-partum metabolic and inflammatory responses increases the chances of the development of KET in the post-partum. Thus, in this study, blood samples will be collected from dairy cows at approximately 260 ± 3 days of gestation (21 days prior to estimated calving date) for the measurement of multiple metabolic and inflammatory markers (i.e., total protein, albumin, blood urea nitrogen, calcium, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, non-esterified fatty acids, total bilirubin, BHB, glucose, triglyceride, total cholesterol, sorbitol dehydrogenase) and at days 7±3 and 14±3 post-partum for the determination of BHB and diagnosis of KET. We plan to enroll 400 cows during the study period. Animals will be kept under normal conditions at their home herd and will be followed during the first 60 DIM to determine the incidence of diseases. Our results will equip veterinarians and producers to establish optimal herd-level management before the occurrence of KET.

Techniques Used: During this project, the student will be exposed to the routine of a commercial dairy farm and will work in collaboration with faculty members and graduate students part of our research team. The student is expected to become proficient in collecting blood as well as develop a better understanding of the management and care of dairy cows around parturition. Additionally, the student working in this project will be responsible for record keeping and analysis of information extracted from on-farm management software. The student involved in this study will be trained in using Microsoft Excel in order to efficiently manage this large dataset.

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: Clinical trial evaluating the impact of colostrum supplementation for the first two weeks on performance, antibiotic use and economics of neonatal dairy calves 
Mentor(s): Godden
Contact: godde002@umn.edu

Project Description: The first colostrum feeding is known to have significant positive impacts on calf health and performance. However, preliminary studies have also suggested that supplementing the milk diet with a powdered colostrum supplement after gut closure (after 24 hours) can have additional benefits including reduced morbidity, improved growth rate, and reduced antibiotic use. However, multi-herd randomized trials evaluating this intervention are lacking, as is an estimate of the cost-benefit of this practice when using a commercially available colostrum substitute. We will complete a multi-herd randomized field study evaluating the impact of supplementing the milk diet for the first two weeks of life on health, growth and antibiotic use in neonatal dairy calves. Additionally, the study will include a partial budget analysis of the intervention. On each participating farm, newborn calves will be randomized by farm staff to a treated or control milk diet for the first 14 days. Both groups will receive the normal colostrum feeding at birth and the regular milk diet already fed on the farm. However, calves randomized to the treated group will receive a bovine colostrum supplement added to their milk feeding for the first 14 days. We hypothesize that calves receiving the colostrum supplement in their milk diet for the first 14 days will experience reduced morbidity from scours and respiratory disease, reduced antibiotic use, and enhanced rate of gain between birth and weaning. We also hypothesize that there will be a positive economic return on the intervention of colostrum supplementation to the milk diet.

Techniques Used: The participating student will assist with study design and will complete weekly visits to participating dairy farms to complete calf health scoring, weigh calves, collect biological samples (e.g. blood sample collection), to collect calf health records (e.g. treatments, mortality), and will assemble a database of results on campus. Dr. Godden will assist the student with data analysis and interpretation. If interested, the student will have an opportunity to present study findings at the annual meeting of the AABP in fall 2021. The student will learn about important issues surrounding calf health management on dairy farms, clinical and technical skills associated with project activities, data assembly and basic data analysis skills, and will develop important professional skills required to communicate and work effectively with research colleagues, herd managers and staff.

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: Evaluation of pelvic area in Jersey cattle for optimization of calf size predictions in Jersey beef cross systems 
Mentor(s): Caixeta and Goldsmitch
Contact: lcaixeta@umn.edu

Project Description: The monetary value of male and non-replacement female Jersey calves continues to be a challenge for dairy producers. Fortunately, advances in genomic testing and sexed semen technology created the opportunity to develop targeted breeding strategies to generate sufficient number of high genetic quality replacement heifers from a selected population of cows. Consequently, the rest of the cows can be inseminated using different beef sires for the production of terminal cross calves - Jersey-beef - with increased value to the feeding industry. Our team propose to investigate the association between Jersey dam’s pelvic area and calving ease and birth weight of Jersey and Jersey-beef calves. Our specific aim is to generate baseline information on the size of calf that a Jersey cow can deliver without difficulty or increased calf mortality immediately after birth. By determining the optimal size calf that a Jersey cow can deliver without negative consequences, we expect to generate information that will enhance farmers, consultants, and veterinarian’s capacity to identify the best mating strategy that will bring the best return on investment when breeding Jersey cows. The overarching premise of our research effort is to determine what the optimal calf size is for Jersey cows, especially Jersey-beef cross calves. Our ultimate long-term goal with this research is to equip dairy farmers with science-based decision-making tools that will contribute to the improvement of animal health, performance and well-being, as well as economic returns.

Techniques Used: During this project, the student will be exposed to the routine of a commercial dairy farm and will work in collaboration with faculty members and graduate students part of our research team. The student is expected to become proficient in collecting blood as well as develop a better understanding of the management and care of dairy cows around parturition. Additionally, the student working in this project will be responsible for record keeping and analysis of information extracted from on-farm management software. The student involved in this study will be trained in using Microsoft Excel in order to efficiently manage this large dataset.

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: The development of a sole ulcer induction model in dairy cows 
Mentor(s): Cramer
Contact: gcramer@umn.edu

Project Description: Lameness is a pervasive prevalent problem in the dairy industry that affects both animal welfare and farm profitability. A cow with lameness experiences negative changes in her physiology, behavior, and affective state. Sole ulcers are a common, painful cause of lameness. Intervention research on sole ulcers is complicated by their chronic, multi-factorial nature, requiring very large-scale longitudinal clinical trials. Our project will address this problem by developing and testing a sole ulcer induction protocol.

Techniques Used: Hoof trimming, block application, cattle handling, FLIR imaging, data management, weigh scale management

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine

Project Title: Investigating alternatives to antibiotics approaches for microbiological food safety 
Mentor(s): Johny
Contact: anupjohn@umn.edu

Project Description: Dr. Johny’s research focuses on controlling or inactivating zoonotic bacterial pathogens of significance to human health such as Salmonella, Listeria, and Campylobacter, using alternatives to antibiotics interventions. This interventional microbiology approach involves identification and application probiotic bacteria, prebiotics, vaccines, phytobiotics, and other emerging alternatives to inactivate foodborne pathogens in animal production, especially poultry. This will be accomplished by methods such as in vitro testing (using standard dilution and culturing techniques, cell culture, and/or targeted gene expression profiling), ex vivo standardization (using tissues and organs, and secretions and excretions), and in vivo (live bird) validation. For more details, visit www.anupjohnylab.org. Students will be presented with opportunities in any one or more of the three methods and areas depending on their time commitment, ongoing research project, and interest. Interested and committed students may contact Dr. Johny for further discussions to tailor their training in his BSL2 pathogenic microbiology labs located in the Animal Science/Veterinary Medicine building. Once a project is initiated, the student will have opportunities to get trained in research procedures, including interpreting relevant literature and statistical design and performing basic or applied experiments. The knowledge gained is expected to improve the scientific efforts to reduce foodborne infections associated with animal food products, improving human health.

Techniques Used: Bacterial culture, gene expression profiling

Eligible Funding: Boehringer Ingleheim, College of Veterinary Medicine


Project Title: Impact of pre-feedlot management strategies on the rumen microbiome, sustainability, food safety and calf health and performance during feedlot transition 
Mentor(s): Noyes, Goldsmith, Caixeta
Contact: nnoyes@umn.edu

Project Description: The transition of calves from the cow-calf sector to the feedlot is one of the most critical time points in beef production. During the transition, calves are at an increased risk of respiratory morbidity and mortality, and problems during this transition to the feedlot can result in decreased overall feedlot performance. In an attempt to lessen this risk and reduce negative outcomes, feedlot operators utilize a multipronged approach, including a transition diet, metaphylaxis for high-risk populations, and individual treatment of sick cattle. However, many of the stressors of feedlot transition occur prior to or during feedlot placement within the marketing chain; therefore, these strategies are often “too little, too late” or have limited impact. Ideally, calves would be pre-emptively managed to mitigate the risks of feedlot transition, and indeed many cow-calf producers employ such preventive strategies. Examples include pre- conditioning (primarily via vaccination) and backgrounding as well as other practices such as phased or gradual weaning. While generally thought of as well-described and well-researched, the methods and details of how such management is done on the primary cow-calf production unit or farm/ranch is highly variable as is the results. Furthermore, it is unknown how any of these pre-emptive measures impact the microbiome of transitioning calves. Given this background, there is a huge opportunity to better characterize the interaction between pre- feedlot management systems, cattle microbiomes, and health, performance and sustainability outcomes. Therefore, the objectives of this project are to:
a) Provide a foundation for lifecycle assessment by documenting and describing the farm-to- feedlot pathways currently being utilized by Minnesota cow-calf producers.
b) Generate initial insight into how these various farm-to-market pathways impact the rumen microbiome, production efficiency, animal health/wellbeing, sustainability and food safety.

Techniques Used: survey development and administration, cattle handling and restraint; on-farm rumen sampling; study logistics for research involving live-animal, on-farm sampling; sample collection and handling; basic microbiome knowledge; basic data management

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: Investigating loss of function variants in the general equine population 
Mentor(s): McCue, Mickelson, Durward-Akhurst
Contact: mccu0173@umn.edu

Project Description: Large-scale studies of genetic variation have been instrumental for facilitating the identification of disease-causing variants in human patients with genetic disease. One of the most surprising findings from these studies has been the higher than expected number of variants computationally predicted to have a detrimental effect on phenotype in apparently healthy individuals (the genetic burden). However, the genetic burden in many studies is inflated for several reasons, including inaccuracies in the reference genome and computational prediction program errors. The average human carries approximately 100 experimentally validated variants that lead to complete LOF of the affected gene. This information is critical when evaluating possible disease-causing variants, because genes that tolerate LOF variants are unlikely to cause highly detrimental diseases such as myotonia. We have developed the first large-scale study of genetic variation in the horse, and have established that the average genetic burden is 3,474 variants per individual, with approximately 20% of these being present in a homozygous state. The proportion of the genetic burden that represents false positives in the horse is not known, but is likely higher than humans due to the horse reference genome being less complete than the human reference genome. Therefore, the goal of this project is to use computational resources to validate the variants computationally predicted to have a detrimental effect on phenotype in the horse. In objective 1, we will rule out false positive variants present in regions of the genome that are poorly covered by whole genome sequencing and/or where there are areas of the genome that appear to be poorly annotated. In objective 2, we will use additional computational tools to predict the functional consequence of each variant.
The long-term goal of this project is to identify variants that can be experimentally validated to determine the true number of variants predicted to have a detrimental effect on phenotype in the horse. This will be an extremely important resource for investigators seeking to identify disease-causing variants in patients with suspected genetic disease, as candidate genes that have LOF variants in the general population are unlikely to be causing highly detrimental genetic diseases.

Techniques Used: DNA isolation; evaluation of whole genome sequencing analysis; understanding of possible errors in the equine reference genome; interpretation of the Integrative Genome Viewer for visualizing genome sequencing data; computational evaluation of predicted highly detrimental variants; investigation of genes containing LOF variants; there is the option to assist with a concurrent study involving collecting ECGs from Standardbred racehorses at Running Aces racetrack 1-2 days a week 


Eligible Funding: Morris Animal Foundation, College of Veterinary Medicine, Boehringer Ingelheim, Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: The effect of multimodal pain management strategies on acute pain, and subsequent health and performance associated with disbudding neonatal goat kids
Mentor(s): Knauer, Barrel, Ventura
Contact: knaue020@umn.edu

Project Description: There are 14,000 dairy goats in the state of MN, many of which were disbudded as neonates without the use of any pain management. We are currently lacking comprehensive information about current disbudding and pain relief practices amongst dairy goat producers in Minnesota, but anecdotal evidence suggests that the use of any form of pain relief during disbudding is low to non-existent. Disbudding, or the removal of the cornual epithelium through thermal destruction, is well documented to elicit painful responses in goat kids. As such, the lack of pain management represents a significant welfare concern for dairy goat kids and the dairy goat industry. This research will deploy a novel pain mitigation strategy on a commercial farm to investigate longer-term health and performance measures. The results from this study will be directly applicable at the farm level, providing an immediate positive impact on dairy goat welfare, and the dairy goat industry in MN and beyond. The student will conduct this research in a eld laboratory setting on a commercial dairy goat farm in WI, and will have the opportunity to present the results of their project at the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Small Ruminant Practitioners in the Fall of 2021.

Techniques Used: With the assistance of the PI, student will be responsible for study related activities including sampling, data management, analysis, and reporting. The student will become proficient at disbudding dairy goat kids as well as increase their knowledge of common practices of dairy goat producers.

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine


Project Title: How do early home range attributes influence neonatal moose survival? 
Mentor(s): Severud and Wolf
Contact: seve0135@umn.edu

Project Description: The environment into which a neonate is born and early space use by mothers and offspring can both dictate early survival. Data on moose calf home ranges are relatively unknown, as is the influence the composition of those home ranges has on survival. Neonates may be the first age class to respond to environmental variation, so it is important to understand home range composition of this vulnerable stage. Grand Portage Indian Reservation in northeastern Minnesota has collared and monitored moose calves from 2013 to 2019 (n = 78). We are seeking a student to calculate space use by GPS-collared neonatal moose using a variety of traditional and more sophisticated home range estimators, specifically minimum convex polygons (MCP), kernel density estimators (KDE), and Brownian bridge movement models (BBMM). Ideally the student will have some prior exposure to R programming, but guidance will be provided. Home ranges will be calculated using R packages that use reproducible scripts and outputs (package rhr). We will then overlay land cover and timber management geospatial coverage on the home ranges (using ArcGIS) and examine patterns in home range composition and survival, cause-specific mortality, and calf health. The ultimate goal will be to describe the variation in home range size, location, and composition, and to relate that variation to demographic responses. The student will gain proficiency in R, data management, reproducible research, and spatial analyses.

Techniques Used: R programming skills; reproducible research; home range analyses; spatial analyses

Eligible Funding: Morris Animal Foundation


Project Title: Investigation of infectious causes of porcine fetal death
Mentor(s): Rovira and Kumar
Contact: rove0010@umn.edu

Project Description: Part 1: summarize data obtained in the last 10 years at the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab (VDL) in routine porcine abortion cases to identify trends in currently known pathogens. Part 2: identify potentially unknown pathogens through data mining on existing next generation sequencing (NGS) datasets from clinical cases. Part 3: perform NGS on tissues from new cases of porcine abortion received at the VDL - comparison to PCR results, establish background and potential new pathogen discovery The three parts will be done concurrently.

Techniques Used: Data analysis; next generation sequencing (sample processing; library preparation; operation of the sequencer; data analysis); critical interpretation of diagnostic results.

Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine, Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory


Project Title: Reducing transmission of Bovine Leukemia Virus in dairy cattle through application of phylodynamics
Mentor(s): Wells and Mor
Contact: wells023@umn.edu

Project Description: Bovine leukemia virus (BLV), a retrovirus found on nearly all US dairy operations, causes economic losses through premature culling and reduced milk production of infected cows. It also poses risks to the dairy industry through public health and market access concerns. BLV transmission occurs within herds through blood-borne routes from subclinically infected to susceptible cattle. Though much is known about disease transmission, successful disease control is difficult. We propose to use genotype clustering data available through whole genome sequencing (WGS) of BLV to identify and prioritize routes of transmission using phylodynamic approaches. Samples are being collected from 2 BLV-infected dairy herds. We will use WGS for complete genome characterization and to produce SNPs needed for characterization of transmission networks within herds. This will involve integration of WGS and epidemiologic data to evaluate the strength of association with hypothesized transmission pathways within herd (dams to calves through in utero and colostrum/milk, dams to multiple heifer calves born near time of calving through consumption of pooled colostrum or milk, heifer calves to other heifer calves through fomites, biting insects or vaccinations, cows to cows through fomites or biting insects). Successful completion of this proposed research project will support development of more effective control programs for BLV, part of our longer term goal to reduce between- and within-herd spread of cattle diseases, ultimately reducing financial losses and increasing the competitiveness of US cattle producers.

Techniques Used: Infectious disease epidemiology as relates to bovine leukemia virus (BLV); inferential epidemiologic analysis; phylodynamics analysis using WGS data 


Eligible Funding: Dept. of Veterinary Population Medicine