Prof. Niel Karrow (effects of stress on animal health)

[music] Our research program is focused on the effects of stress on animal health. And this has important implications for disease and also animal welfare. So stress is a very broad term and what we’re specifically interested in is the effects of stress caused by a microbial infection. So our stressor is a bacterial toxin that we are commonly exposed to when the animal receives this either in the diet or intravenous or intramuscular injection, it elicits a sickness response, like you would experience when you get a vaccination. And so animals respond differently to that vaccination and you can measure their cortisol levels, for example to determine whether they’re higher or lower or medium stress responders. So we’re interested in the mechanisms that regulate that stress response to this immune challenge. We’re interested in, genetic variation within populations, and if we can identify genes that regulate this stress response then that might allow us to actually target some of those genes to help animals to be more stress resistant. So my Masters student, Danielle Naylor, she’s working on this project. It turns out that when animals are heat stressed they also have elevated levels of this same bacterial toxin that we are using as a stressor. So our hypothesis is that if we select animals that are more resistant to our immune challenge they would also potentially be more resistant to the effects of heat related stress. She’s identified high, middle and low stress responding sheep and we’re collecting blood leukocytes from those animals and subjecting them to different temperature conditions and then activating them in cell culture and seeing whether we see a correlation or a relationship between how they respond in vitro with their phenotype in vivo. So that’s kind of a neat project.

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