Arthritis and Your Pet

The Aggie family lost a beloved member when Reveille VII, the retired mascot of Texas A&M University, died last week. Ever since her arrival in Aggieland, Reveille VII, a female American Collie, had been receiving the best care available at the Small Animal Hospital at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science (CVM).  Stacy Eckman, a lecturer at the CVM, had been treating Rev for arthritis since last August, when Rev’s caregivers, Tina and Paul Gardner, noticed that she was having trouble sitting down like she normally would.

“Arthritis can attack bones and joints in animals the same way the disease does in humans,” said Zachary Goodrich, veterinary resident instructor at the CVM. “However some animals, especially dogs, can be affected by arthritis at a much younger age than humans generally are. Some pets will be affected by arthritis before they are even one year old.”

Reveille VII was twelve and a half.

Although there is no certain way to prevent arthritis in pets, owners can help stave off arthritis by making sure their dog has a good, healthy diet and gets plenty of exercise.

“Dogs that are overweight tend to be more affected by arthritis,” Eckman said.

Reveille VII did not have that problem. “Tina Gardener did a great job keeping Reveille slim and fit, even with her reduced activity level in retirement,” Eckman said.

“Consistent low-impact exercise such as walking and swimming helps maintain good muscle mass as well as keeping your pet at an ideal body weight,” said Goodrich. “The more extra weight your pet carries around, the higher the stress being placed across its joints which may worsen the arthritis or affect your pet’s quality of life.”

There are several signs for pet-owners to look for if they suspect their animal is suffering from arthritis.

“The most obvious sign is decreased activity level, “said Goodrich. “The animal may not want to go as far as it used to on a walk or may not want to walk at all. Other signs can include stiffness when rising, especially after sleeping, and varying degrees of lameness.” It is also important to have your animal examined.

A veterinarian can take x-rays of the affected joints to diagnose arthritis. However, x-ray images can’t determine the disease’s severity.

“Their signs on x-rays don’t necessarily coordinate with their physical findings,” Eckman said. In other words, a lack of change in the x-rays doesn’t mean your pet’s arthritis isn’t getting worse.

Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are a number of treatments available to help your arthritic pet feel better. These treatments vary depending on the severity of the case.

Early detection-before the disease has progressed too far-is important to help maintain your pet’s ability to walk, run, and play.

“There are several surgical and medical treatment options available depending on which joint is affected,” said Goodrich. “Joint replacements are performed on a case-by-case basis. Arthroscopy is also routinely used to evaluate and treat the joint in a minimally invasive manner.”

A veterinarian may give your dog steroid injections to help relieve inflammation. Drugs, such as polysulfated glycosaminoglycan injections, help protect cartilage with minimal side effects.

“Medical options include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, of which there are several on the veterinary medical market,” said Eckman. “Most of them are actually formulated for osteoarthritis.” However, never give your pets human medications such as ibuprofen or aspirin, as they can cause serious harm to your pet’s stomach, kidneys, and liver.

“When you use the drugs together, you can actually use less drug overall because they complement each other,” said Eckman.

Physical therapy, such as work on a water treadmill, is very important.

“Treatment for arthritis sometimes requires multiple types of therapy,” said Jacqueline Davidson, clinical professor at the CVM. “Reveille was given several different types of oral medication for pain and inflammation and received injections of a joint lubricant and a steroid into several of the more severely affected joints. She also received injections of a medication in the muscle to help with joint pain and inflammation.”

Reveille’s diet was also controlled throughout her therapy to make sure that she stayed at a lean body weight, and she took several different dietary supplements for her joints, one of which was an omega-3 fatty acid, to help reduce pain associated with inflammation.

“Being overweight results in more stress on the joints because they are supporting more weight,” said Davidson. “In addition, excess body fat promotes inflammation in the body and can worsen the signs of arthritis.”

Reveille came to the TAMU veterinary physical rehabilitation service several times weekly. Her treatments included electro-acupuncture and laser therapy for pain and she exercised regularly in the underwater treadmill.

“Walking in water is helpful for arthritis because the buoyancy of the water reduces stress on the joints, allowing for more comfortable movement,” said Davidson. “In addition, the water provides some resistance, which helps promote leg strength.”

The TAMU Small Animal Hospital also provides nonmedical treatments to help with pain, such as dry needling, laser, high-energy wave therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and electro-acupuncture.

A veterinarian can give recommendations for various dietary supplements and a home exercise plan, as well as provide dietary counseling to choose the most appropriate diet to maintain lean body weight in your pet.

“There is no one right recipe for every dog,” Eckman said. “You have options, and you have to determine what works and what doesn’t work.”

About Pet Talk

Pet Talk is a service of the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at Suggestions for future topics may be directed to

Unusual Antibodies in Cows Suggest New Ways to Make Therapies for People

COLLEGE STATION, TX – Humans have been raising cows for their meat, hides and milk for millennia. Now it appears that the cow immune system also has something to offer. A study of an extraordinary family of cow antibodies, led by researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and coauthored by three investigators from Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), points to new ways to make human medicines.


Photo - some of the cattle used in the research
Some of the cattle used in the research

The CVM’s faculty members’ expertise in immunology and infectious disease, as well as their easy access to a herd of cattle, made them a natural fit as collaborators.

“These antibodies’ structure and their mechanism for creating diversity haven’t been seen before in other animals’ antibodies,” said Vaughn V. Smider, assistant professor of Cell and Molecular Biology at TSRI and principal investigator for the study, which appears in the June 6, 2013 issue of the journal Cell.

Antibodies, large proteins in the immune system, resemble lobsters with a tail and two identical arms for grabbing specific targets, called “antigens,” often parts of pathogens like bacteria or viruses. At the end of each arm is a small set of protein loops called complementarity-determining regions (CDRs), which actually do the grabbing. By rearranging and mutating the genes that code for CDRs, an animal’s immune system can generate a vast and diverse population of antibodies-which, collectively, can bind to just about any foreign invader.

In humans and in many other mammals, most of an antibody’s specificity for a target is governed by the largest CDR region, CDR H3. Researchers have been finding hints that an unusually long version of this domain can sometimes be the key to a successful defense against a dangerous infection, such as HIV.

Waithaka Mwangi, Assistant Professor in the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and an author on the Cell paper, suggests thinking of these long CDRs as a probe on a thin extended scaffold that can fit narrow crevices to reach and bind unique hidden pathogen determinants that ordinary antibodies cannot.

As Smider’s area of research includes finding new ways to generate therapeutic antibody proteins, reports of long CDR H3 use caught his interest. “We started thinking about how we could make these long CDR3s that are so rare in humans, and we knew from the literature that cows make even longer ones all the time,” he said.

Although the structure of the long CDR H3 protein in previous studies of the human anti-HIV antibody had seemed unusual, the corresponding structure in the cow antibodies turned out to be unique in the known world of animal antibodies: a long “stalk” element topped by an antigen-binding “knob.” Sequencing of the DNA that codes for the knob region revealed an unusual abundance of cysteine-a sulfur-containing amino acid that is apt to bond to a nearby cysteine on the same protein chain, thus forming a loop.

Analyses of these DNA sequences, some of which were conducted at Texas A&M, also indicated that, in the cow B-cells where these antibodies are made, the knob-coding gene segments are extraordinarily likely to develop point mutations that either add or subtract cysteines. The effect of these tiny mutations is to create or remove-often radically-antigen-grabbing loops on the structure.

In the cows, binding of these antibodies to viruses is almost entirely done by the knob on the long CDR H3, which shows that these antibodies do have an important function in the immune system. “For the very first time we have an ultra-long CDR3 antibody binding to an actual pathogen,” said Mwangi, an expert in immunology who completed the initial assays that determined the binding target for these antibodies.

One question that remains is why the cow immune system evolved to make such antibodies. Smider suspects that it has to do with cows’ unusual, four-chambered, grass-fermenting stomach, with its extensive collection of bacteria and other microorganisms. “If some of these escape from the stomach and get into the bloodstream or other tissues, there could be some pretty serious infections; so that’s our starting hypothesis for why cows have this unusual immune defense,” he said.

The stalk-and-knob structure of the CDR H3 loops on these antibodies, which resemble structures found in some insect poisons and other proteins, also suggest that they evolved to grab a particular type of target. “What comes to mind are ion channel or pore structures in the walls of cells,” Smider said. “In any case, we’re hoping to find out whether any of the structures targeted by these knobs exist on microorganisms that cause human disease.”

“Potentially, the outcome of this research is going to be huge,” Mwangi said, “not only for cattle but also for human health.”

Michael F. Criscitiello, Assistant Professor at the CVM and one of the study’s authors, said this was a wonderful chance to contribute to such a groundbreaking study, as researchers at the CVM had experience with-and access to-cows. The entire project was made possible through collaborations of various people and labs each contributing their expertise to add pieces to the puzzle.

“Such collaborations bring together specialists in diverse fields and certainly facilitate future research,” said Terje Raudsepp, Associate Professor at the CVM and another of the study’s authors. “This is expected to lead to new collaborative projects in the future.”

The study was supported by the American Cancer Society, National Institutes of Health, Skaggs Institute for Chemical Biology, Scripps Translational Science Institute, Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, and United States Department of Agriculture.

Dr. William Murphy Wins AVMF Winn Research Award

COLLEGE STATION, TX – Dr. William Murphy, Associate Professor in the Department of Veterinary Integrative Biosciences (VIBS) at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), was chosen as the recipient of the 2013 AVMF Winn Excellence in Feline Foundation Research Award.

Dr. William Murphy
Dr. William Murphy

Established in 2009 by the Winn Feline Foundation and American Veterinary Medical Foundation (AVMF), this award honors contributions to advancing feline health and welfare through research.

“Dr. Murphy’s research has contributed significantly to the body of knowledge in feline genomics,” said Dr. Eleanor Green, Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine. “We are proud of his accomplishments and look forward to his continuing a stellar career here at Texas A&M.”

Dr. Murphy’s 2001 papers on mammalian evolution, published in Nature and Science, have been cited more than 1365 times, according to the Science Citation Index.  Since then, he has been working on maps of the feline genome to localize the genes for cat coat color and to find the places where mutations cause diseases such as muscular atrophy and infertility. Furthermore, Dr. Murphy has led the analysis of feline sex chromosomes and has identified cat-specific genes that regulate male fertility.

Dr. Murphy has also applied genetic tools from the domestic cat to the study of the evolutionary relationships and population genetics of the wild cats, including snow leopards and the other big cats.

Many mapping studies that have led to identification of genes and development of genetic tests have been based on the structure of the feline genome discovered in Murphy’s lab.

“I am honored that the AVMF and Winn Feline Foundation have selected me for this award,” said Murphy. “I share credit with my fantastic students and staff who have shared my passion for applying genetic tools to study the interesting biology of cats and their charismatic wild relatives.  I am further thankful for the support of my mentors and colleagues, my department and the CVM, and the funding agencies like Winn that have helped to make my job rewarding.”

“Dr. Murphy is an exceptional scientist whose career reflects truly outstanding achievement,” said Dr. Evelyn Tiffany-Castiglioni, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education, Professor and VIBS Department Head, who nominated Dr. Murphy for this award.  “He is highly deserving of recognition by the AVMF for his profound contributions feline genetics.  He is also a kind and generous colleague and a fine teacher and mentor for students, postdoctoral fellows, and junior faculty members.  I am very proud of him and the honor he brings to our college.”

The cell’s inner compass: new study identifies key mediators of directional cell migration

Just like birds migrate as changes in the environment influence their internal compass, cells in the human body have an inner compass that signals them to migrate in response to changes in tissues that make up the different organs. Shedding light on how cells use this internal compass to polarize, i.e. establish a front-rear axis, and migrate directionally is essential to understanding development and disease.

Drs. Rivera and Chaki

After three years of intense work, Dr. Sankar P. Chaki, a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM), has identified a molecular mechanism that coordinates an “inner compass” that enables directional cell migration. Chaki, working in the laboratory of Dr. Gonzalo Rivera, was looking for links between changes in the morphology of vascular endothelial cells and their ability to set and maintain a particular direction while crawling on two-dimensional surfaces.

“Cell migration is currently an area of very active research,” Rivera said. “Recently, our group joined hundreds of scientists from around the globe that gathered at the Gordon Research Conference on Directed Cell Migration, held in Galveston, TX, to discuss topics ranging from basic molecular and cellular mechanisms and function, to new imaging technology, to new therapeutic interventions. Understanding regulation of cell migration is the key to developing new therapies to alleviate conditions that involve either activation or inhibition of cell migration.”

Rivera further explained that tissue repair and wound healing are examples of conditions that require stimulation of cell migration; whereas, the progression of invasive cancers, arthritis, and certain cardiovascular-related disorders, could be restricted by inhibition of cell migration.

Cells orient themselves during the process of migration by two essential regulatory mechanisms. One of them is dictated by the presence of external signals – either attractants or repellents. The other operates as a cell’s inner compass, a built-in molecular mechanism that enables the establishment of cell polarity, i.e. the formation of distinct front and rear ends and directional migration.

“Cell polarization sets in motion a molecular process that enables directional cell migration by coordinating changes in cell shape, cell-cell contacts, and cell adhesion to the surface”, Chaki explained. “Using a combination of molecular genetics, cell biology, and advanced imaging techniques, we showed that Nck adaptors are key components of the molecular machinery that coordinates intrinsic cell directionality. Nck adaptors modify the actin cytoskeleton – a meshwork of filaments that controls cell shape and motility – and contribute to directional migration by coordinating the formation of crawling pseudopods – or foot-like extensions – that adhere to the surface.”

Images showing normally polarized and unpolarized endothelial cells. Cell polarity and directional migration is indicated by the localized activation of Cdc42, a critical component of the cell’s inner compass, at the leading edge (left panel). Loss of cell polarity, on the other hand, is evidenced by the altered pattern of CdC42 activation and abnormal morphology of the Nck-depleted cell (right panel).

Intrinsic cell directionality is observed when cells respond to a non-directional, uniform signal that triggers the basic motility machinery in the absence of any external guidance factor. Vascular endothelial cells with depletion of Nck adaptors exhibit loss of cell polarity – failure to establish a clear front and rear end – and impaired directional migration, i.e. inability to sustain directionality while crawling.

These findings from Rivera’s laboratory, accepted for publication in the highly regarded Journal of Cell
, are significant because they establish new potential targets in diseases that involve altered cell migration and invasion such as cancer metastasis and atherosclerosis.

Rivera emphasized the multi-disciplinary nature of this research. “We succeeded in integrating a team that combines expertise in cell biology, biophysics, imaging technology, and computer-assisted image analysis.  The team of collaborators includes Drs. Andreea Trache (TAMU HSC), Rola Barhoumi (CVM Image Analysis Laboratory) and Shawn Gomez (University of North Carolina). We are also grateful for the support provided by the American Heart Association, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, and Texas A&M University,” Rivera said.

An ongoing research project in the laboratory is examining the role of Nck adaptors and cytoskeletal remodeling in the establishment of polarity and lumen formation in vascular networks developing in three-dimensional environments that more accurately resemble the organization of tissues in the body.

The full research article can be accessed at:

The American Gut Project examines bacteria in stomach and seeks human and pet volunteers

Ever wondered who’s living in your gut, and what they’re doing? Our trillions of microorganisms outnumber our own cells by as many as 10 to one in and on our own bodies, and do important jobs ranging from chewing up the food we eat to building up the immune system.

Researchers at leading institutes around the world including the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) are collaborating on a new project where everyone is encouraged to participate and find out what type of microbiome, or bacteria, are in their gut. The American Gut project, led by the Human Food Project, builds on the work of previous studies, including the five-year, $173-million National Institutes of Health-funded Human Microbiome Project, and provides a way for the general public, their kids, and pets to participate.

“This is an important study that revolves around everyone participating,” said Jan Suchodolski, a clinical assistant professor in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences at the CVM. “Unlike previous projects, anyone can participate, allowing us to examine the microbiome from a wide variety of people and develop an understanding of how diet and lifestyle affect microbes.”

The gut microbiome has been linked to many diseases, including obesity, cancer, and inflammatory bowel disease: interestingly, all these diseases are much more common in Western populations. “We should start thinking about diets not only from the perspective of what we should eat, but what we should be feeding our entire supraorganism,” said Jeff Leach, founder of the Human Food Project and co-founder of American Gut.

“This project truly brings together a dream team of microbiome investigators,” said Rob Knight, an associate professor with the BioFrontiers Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder and a co-founder of American Gut. “And building a framework where we can join together to understand the microbiome is critical.”

The project builds on the success team members have had previously in other areas such as examining the microbiome of pets.  Previous studies, for example, described the gut microbiomes of dogs and cats of different ages and sizes.  The researchers of these previous studies found that every animal has a unique microbial ecosystem that is partially influenced by diet and environment.  To help with the examination of companion animals’ microbiomes contributors to the American Gut project are urged to bring their pets with them to participate.

“By being able to collect this massive dataset in healthy pet animals, it will allow us to identify differences in gut microbiota between healthy and diseased dogs and cats, which, ultimately, will lead to better treatment modalities for our furry companions,” Suchodolski said.

Since companion animals are living in close quarters with humans as family members, Suchodolski said there is potential to transfer parts of the microbiome between humans and pets.

“The American Gut project provides an excellent platform to study the microbiomes of humans as well as animals, because it is a multi-center collaborative study including the leading experts in the microbiome field. The results of this study will be made openly available which will drastically advance the research in this field,” Suchodolski said.

Participants in the project include many of the key players in the Human Microbiome Project including Dirk Gevers, group leader of microbial systems and communities at the Broad Bnstitute of Harvard and MIT, Joseph Petrosino, director of the Alkek Center for Metagenomics and Microbiome Research at Baylor College of Medicine, and Curtis Huttenhower, an assistant professor at the Harvard School of Public Health; key players in the Earth Microbiome Project including Janet Jansson, professor and senior staff scientist at the University of California at Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Jack Gilbert, assistant professor at the University of Chicago and staff scientist at Argonne National Laboratory, and J. Gregory Caporaso, assistant professor at Northern Arizona University and Argonne National Laboratory; and other experts on the human genome, microbiome, microbiome in human disease  susceptibility  and evolution including Ruth Ley, assistant professor at Cornell University, George Church, founder of the Personal Genome Project and Professor at Harvard Medical School, Rob Dunn an associate professor at North Carolina State University and Founder of, Jeroen Raes, professor at the Flemish Institute of Biotechnology (VIB), Brussels, Jonathan Eisen, professor at the University of California, Davis, Susan Holmes, professor at Stanford University, Ramnik Xavier, chief of gastroenterology at the Massachusetts General Hospital, director for the study of Inflammatory Bowel Disease and senior associate member of the Broad Institute, Kelly Swanson, associate professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and Jan Suchodolski, clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

Unlike traditional projects, funded by grant applications to the government or private foundations, American Gut will be funded by donations from the public. Please visit to learn more about the project and participation.

Chickens May Fight Cancer

Originally reported by Today TAMU:

July 10, 2012

The common barnyard chicken could provide some very un-common clues for fighting off diseases and might even offer new ways to attack cancer, according to a team of international researchers that includes a Texas A&M University professor.

James Womack, Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, is co-author of a paper detailing the team’s work that appears in the current issue of PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists).  Womack was a leader in the international effort to sequence the cattle genome in 2004.

White Leghorn ChickenWomack and the team, comprised mostly of scientists from the Seoul National University in Korea, examined 62 White Leghorn and 53 Cornish chickens for diversity in NK-lysin, an antibacterial substance that occurs naturally in animals and is used as a method of fighting off diseases.

They were able to obtain two genetic variations of NK-lysin and the results offered two unexpected shockers:  both showed abilities to fight off bacterial infections and other diseases, while one showed it could successfully fight cancer cells as well.

“It took all of us by surprise,” Womack says of the findings.

“One of the genetic variations shows it has the ability to fight against cancer cells much more aggressively than the other variation. We certainly were not looking at the cancer side of this, but there it was.”

Womack says the team selected the two breeds because Cornish and White Leghorn chickens, found throughout most of the world, have relatively diverse genetic origins.

After conducting a DNA sequence of the chickens, the team found two variations of the genes that offered clues as to their protective ability to ward off infections.

“One form appears to be more potent in killing off cancer cells than the other, and that’s the one that naturally caught our eye,” Womack adds.

“This could lead to other steps to fight cancer or in developing ways to prevent certain infections or even diseases.  It’s another door that has been opened up. We are looking at similar studies right now to see if this is possible with cattle.

“The next step is to work with other animals and see if similar variants exist. We need to look for any genetic similarities to the chicken variants and then determine if these variants affect the health of the animal, but this is an exciting first step in this direction.”

Novel studies identify small RNAs connecting inflammation and obesity

Obesity, a prevalent threat among one-third of the adult population in the United States, is associated with cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders such as diabetes.  A major contributor to this danger is inflamed adipose tissue, or body fat.  A recent study by a team at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) indicates that small RNAs, or microRNAs (miRNAs), which are part of a person’s genetic code, can guide inflammatory or anti-inflammatory action of macrophages – a special type of cell – in the adipose tissue that are crucial for our immune defense and important regulators once permeated into tissues. The study, led by Dr. Beiyan Zhou, assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology at the CVM, was recently accepted for publication by Circulation, the leading journal of the American Heart Association (AHA).

Macrophages are a type of immune cell which often responds to infections or wound repairings.  Zhou said the study focuses on understanding how microRNA influences these cells when regulating the “good” and “bad” fat cells.

Cong Meng, a graduate student in Zhou’s laboratory and the co-first author of the article, said  adipose tissue infiltrated by macrophages can be polarized to M1,”bad,” and M2,”good,” macrophages.

Zhou said macrophages in fat tissues act in a protective, anti-inflammatory role in people who are not obese.  For those that are obese, or have plaque on their blood-vessel walls, macrophages infiltrate the tissues, try to correct the problem, and become inflamed.

“Both M1 and M2 macrophages are regulators in atherosclerotic lesions that play a critical role in the development of cardiovascular diseases. One miRNA can regulate many genes simultaneously. By harnessing one-crucial miRNA, you can shift the network to either direction: inflammatory or anti-inflammatory,” said Guoqing Zhuang, the co-first author for this study and postdoctoral fellow in Zhou’s lab.

Xin Guo, a graduate student in Assistant Professor Chaodong Wu’s laboratory in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences at Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, validated the adipose tissue signaling pathways.

“In this study, we demonstrated that miR-223 is a novel and crucial regulator of macrophage polarization and is indicated for suppressing pro-inflammatory and enhancing anti-inflammatory responses,” Guo said.

Dr. Stephen Safe, collaborator on the study and professor at the CVM, said the results hold great promise in the development of treatments for metabolic disorders.

“This study has identified a new microRNA-based paradigm for regulation of insulin sensitivity,” Safe said. “The results may ultimately provide the basis for using microRNA analogs or chemicals for microRNA regulated genes to treat insulin resistance-related diseases,” he added.

While this study represents a starting point in developing new therapeutic drugs for diabetes, Dr. Robert Chapkin, collaborator on the study and a Regent Professor in the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, explained there is currently a need for new drugs since most are no longer sold due to severe side effects.

“Their highly novel finding suggests that because macrophages play an important role in mediating metabolic disorders including obesity-induced insulin resistance, that microRNA-223 may be a metabolic target for therapies designed to regulate systemic inflammation and energy metabolism,” he added.

The paper sparked positive feedback from the science community including an editorial introduction (published on the same issue of Circulation) by Dr. Jiandie Lin from the University of Michigan.

“Previous studies have implicated different miRNA members in the regulations of innate and adaptive immune responses as well as immune cell differentiation,” Lin said. “However, a role for miRNA in macrophage polarization has not been explored and this research is the first one to link macrophage function and obesity related diseases.”

Texas A&M Research Unlocks Mystery of Salmonella Infection

COLLEGE STATION, TX – Salmonella infection, or Salmonellosis is a major public health burden that carries a significant economic price tag. Recent news stories about outbreaks of Salmonellosis have led to detrimental effects on impacted industries. Historically, pigs and the consumption of Salmonella contaminated pork have been a major source for the transmission of this disease to humans. To better control exposure to and infection by this pathogen in humans, it is important to gain a better understanding of the swine host-pathogen relationship that will lead to better detection measures.

Dr. Renata Ivanek-MiojevicScientists at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Science working in collaboration with researchers from the Swedish National Veterinary Institute and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, examined the intermittent pattern in which pigs shed Salmonella bacteria in their feces, and discovered that Salmonella may lay dormant in the host at an undetectable level as a survival strategy that prolongs the host’s infection. Furthermore, different Salmonella serotypes are shed and go dormant in different frequencies, making detection difficult at best. The results of this study were recently published in PLoS ONE.

This “off and on” pattern of pathogen excretion can lead to a host being misdiagnosed as clear of bacteria when indeed it is still infected. In the either stage, pigs typically do not show physical signs of being infected. In the “on stage”, the host sheds the bacteria in fecal material, while in the “off stage”, the pathogen is still present in the host, but is not shed. Therefore, the leading method of detecting infection, fecal shedding, becomes difficult. “Because of the important role that pigs have played in Salmonellosis outbreaks in other pigs and humans, reliable detection measures and models are critical in developing efficient Salmonella control efforts,” said Dr. Renata Ivanek-Miojevic, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Veterinary Integrative Biosciences Department. While this early study has documented the ability of Salmonella bacteria to lay dormant thereby extending its presence in the infected host, future research will investigate if the same association between the cyclic behavior and the length of infection holds true in other host-pathogen models.

“With this study, we were able to observe the relationship between shedding pattern and length of infection in several serotypes of Salmonella in the swine host,” notes Ivanek. “From here, we will need to use what we learned and the models that we were able to develop to see if the same behavior is observed in other host-pathogen systems.” “If so, the relationship may be useful not only in improving detection methods but also in understanding evolutionary ecology of this and similar infectious diseases with “off and on” pattern of pathogen excretion, and consequently adopting better control measures.”

This study, funded by the National Science Foundation, will become a model for future studies aimed at furthering the detection capabilities and effective control for Salmonella and similar infectious agents in their animal and human host populations.

Yellowstone National Park Bison Really Two Different Populations

The American Bison is an iconic species that conjures up visions of the wide-open prairies characteristic of the Wild West. The spirit of this amazing animal lives on at Yellowstone National Park, home to one of the few populations of bison known to have continually persisted on their current landscape since Pre-Columbian times.

James DerrThe numbers of bison in the Yellowstone herd has fluctuated from less than 100 individuals to more than 3000, but even more amazing than the growing numbers are the genetic secrets these gentle giants continue to reveal about their past that will help to determine their future.

A recent study conducted by researchers at Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM) and their collaborators presented in the most recent issue of the Journal of Heredity has highlighted the use of modern biotechnology to better understand the natural forces that influence wildlife populations.

“In the course of conducting conservation genetics studies of the Yellowstone herd, we discovered that the herd is really separated into two distinct subpopulations,” said James Derr, professor in the veterinary pathobiology department at the CVM. “These two subpopulations have shown genetic differentiation usually seen in populations that have been geographically separated for more than 40 years. In addition, we were also able to identify critical differences in migration patterns between the two subpopulations.”

The improved ability to study the genetics of animals in the wild through advances in technology is crucial for wildlife conservation efforts for any species. The environment plays a significant role in the nutrition, reproduction habits, and genetic diversity within a species – all of which can determine the successful survival of that species.

“The technology available today allows us to discover previously unknown, but crucially important factors, such as cryptic population subdivision,” said Natalie Halbert, collaborator on the study. “Knowledge this detailed provides the opportunity for us to better manage our natural resources and ensure effective stewardship of these resources for long term species conservation.”

From the beginning of the study, the research team planned to document genetic diversity, migration histories and genetic integrity of the bison in this important national herd.

“Finding two genetically distinct Yellowstone bison subpopulations was unexpected,” said Peter Gogan, United States Geological Survey. “But the findings are consistent with what we have learned about the location of the bison subpopulations during the rut and other components of bison demographics including differences in tooth wear, timing of calving, and even survival and reproductive rates. All of this information seems to indicate that these two bison subpopulations have existed for quite some time, possibly back to the reestablishment of this herd in the early 1900s.”

This new information that there are two genetically distinct populations coexisting geographically in Yellowstone, provides an important tool in assisting future population management of this herd and for ensuring the continued success of the American Bison.

Texas A&M And Cornell Colleges Of Veterinary Medicine Join Forces With Pfizer Animal Health

Groundbreaking Partnership
Between Academia And Industry Aims To Provide An Unparalleled
Online Learning Experience To Help Meet The Needs Of An Evolving
Veterinary Profession

Western Veterinary Conference, Las Vegas, NV, February, 2012 – Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine and Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences have announced today a groundbreaking partnership with Pfizer Animal Health. This unique partnership between academia and industry will deliver the Universities’ expertise in medicine and teaching, supported by Pfizer Animal Health’s information delivery and customer service know-how. Together, the partnership will offer veterinarians convenient web-based educational products utilizing the latest advances in educational technologies.

Practicing veterinarians need access to high quality educational opportunities throughout their career since the knowledge base that drives veterinary medicine continues to evolve after professionals have earned their degree. The partnership between Cornell, Texas A&M, and Pfizer Animal Health will seek to transform the learning process, providing practitioners with unique opportunities to stay current with the latest discoveries in veterinary medicine, hone in their clinical skills, incorporate current medical advances into decisions that affect patient care, and build more profitable practices. This collaboration will leverage technology to ensure convenient, round-the-clock access to these educational opportunities.

This partnership will utilize advanced technology to make high quality, lifelong learning more accessible to veterinarians. The educational platform will allow practitioners and students to learn in an online environment that is interactive, experiential, and flexes to accommodate different styles of learning.

“It is not very often in one’s academic lifetime that an opportunity arises which, if pursued, allows substantial change in our profession.  I believe this partnership is just one of those opportunities.  In the truest sense of collaboration, two colleges of veterinary medicine and Pfizer Animal Health are developing a unique public-private partnership that will revolutionize education and learning.  A distinguishing factor that will set this educational content apart is that the academic partners are providing not only subject matter expertise and peer review, but also pedagogical expertise, which will result in transformative learning experiences.  The excitement in the air on the Texas A&M campus is palpable and we are looking forward not only to working with Cornell University, but also to including content experts from other veterinary institutions.”  Said Eleanor M. Green, DVM, DACVIM, DABVP, Carl B. King Dean of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences.

“Ultimately, the goal is to support and bolster veterinarians in their pursuit of excellence and improve the quality of animal care,” said Dr. Michael I. Kotlikoff, Austin O. Hooey Dean of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. “This state-of-the-art learning environment will encourage innovation and flexibility in the profession, while meeting the needs of all those involved by aligning the abilities of the veterinarian with their clients’ and patients’ needs and responding to an identified need among practice owners to maintain their skills, improve their approach to practice management, and continually develop their professional knowledge.”

“At Pfizer Animal Health, we are proud to be part of this groundbreaking partnership with Cornell and Texas A&M, which will allow us to offer exciting opportunities for Veterinarians to access world-class learning that will be highly relevant and immediately applicable to their practices, produced by undisputed leaders in their scientific fields and delivered in an exciting technology platform. This is just another example of our ongoing commitment to education, innovation and professional readiness for Veterinarians and this partnership is just the vehicle to ensure sustained development and delivery of top quality, unbiased, science-based education”, said Michael McFarland, DVM, DABVP, Group Director Companion Animal Veterinary Operations US Pfizer Animal Health.

About Pfizer Animal Health

Pfizer Animal Health, a business unit of Pfizer Inc, is a world leader in the discovery, development and manufacture of innovative animal health vaccines, medicines, and diagnostics.  Pfizer Animal Health invests more in research and development that any other animal health company.  We work to assure a safe sustainable global food supply from healthy beef and dairy cattle, pigs, poultry, and fish while helping dogs, cats, and horses live healthier longer lives.  To learn more visit,

About Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences

The Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences was established nearly a century ago to serve the needs of the Texas livestock industry.  Today it serves the largest livestock industry in the U.S. in addition to protecting the health of all animals, people, and the environment in the second most populous state. It is an innovative leader in veterinary medical education recognized for graduating top quality, practice ready veterinarians from Texas A&M University, which is the seventh largest university in the nation and a top 20 Tier One research institution.

About Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine

Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine is recognized internationally as a leader in public health, biomedical research, animal medicine, and veterinary medical education. Ranked the number one veterinary college in the nation by US News & World Report consistently since 2000, the College’s strength is due to the strategic breadth and depth of its programs, to the expertise of its faculty, and to the achievements of its alumni. Cornell awarded the first veterinary degree in the United States to Daniel Salmon, best known for discovering Salmonella, and again made history in 1910 when it awarded the first American woman with a veterinary degree.

Pfizer Inc.: Working together for a healthier world™

At Pfizer, we apply science and our global resources to improve health and well-being at every stage of life. We strive to set the standard for quality, safety and value in the discovery, development and manufacturing of medicines for people and animals. Our diversified global health care portfolio includes human and animal biologic and small molecule medicines and vaccines, as well as nutritional products and many of the world’s best-known consumer products. Every day, Pfizer colleagues work across developed and emerging markets to advance wellness, prevention, treatments and cures that challenge the most feared diseases of our time. Consistent with our responsibility as the world’s leading biopharmaceutical company, we also collaborate with health care providers, governments and local communities to support and expand access to reliable, affordable health care around the world. For more than 150 years, Pfizer has worked to make a difference for all who rely on us. To learn more about our commitments, please visit us at

Media Contacts:

For Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences:

Angela Clendenin, Director of Public Relations, Voice: 979.862.2675

For Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine:

Stephanie A. Specchio, Voice: 607-253-3369, e-mail address:

For Pfizer Animal Health:

Rebecca Cisek, Senior Director US Communications, Voice: 973.660.5565, e-mail address: