Comparative Animal Nutrition

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The research in our laboratory integrates the interdisciplinary fields of animal nutrition, immunophysiology, and neuroscience, including the ability of nutrients to impact metabolic, immunologic, and developmental patterns. We focus on comparative animal nutrition, with an emphasis on biochemical aspects of proteins and amino acids, but also strive to integrate immunological and behavioral outcomes as related to overall animal health. One notable project in our lab is the use of a translational piglet model for studying the impact of nutrient intake and infection during the neonatal period on brain development and cognitive function (i.e., learning and memory). Overall, research projects in this laboratory can be broadly categorized into two areas: 1) practical nutrition issues facing animal agriculture, and 2) fundamental nutrition questions studied using translational animal models to improve human/animal health and well-being.

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Nutrition researchers aim to make science more accessible to young minds and the public

May 10, 2017 by

 

 

 

 

 

  • After publishing several scientific papers on nutrition’s role in infant brain development, researchers in the Piglet Nutrition & Cognition Laboratory are working on ways to bring the science of what they study out of the lab and into the hands—and minds—of kids.
  • Frontiers for Young Minds is a scientific journal for kids, in which articles are written by distinguished scientists, and then edited and reviewed by kids. Researchers in Ryan Dilger's laboratory recently published an article that distilled their previously-published research for kids to understand.
  • The ultimate goal of this publication is to inspire the next generation of scientists, to get them excited about research, and to encourage them to think critically about the world around them.
  • Frontiers Blog Post
  • Original Press Release
  • Frontiers for Young Minds Publication: https://kids.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/frym.2017.00016

PNCL undergraduate AJ Patsavas presents research thesis at UIUC Undergraduate Research Symposium

May 4, 2017 by
Congratulations to the Dilger lab undergraduate AJ Patsavas for presenting his honors thesis project "The effects of non-digestible fiber on exploratory and stress behaviors in piglets" at the Undergraduate Research Symposium! AJ will studying veterinary medicine at The Ohio State University this Fall 2017.

PNCL undergraduate Rebecca Moll presents research thesis at UIUC Undergraduate Research Symposium

May 4, 2017 by

Congratulations to the Dilger lab undergraduate Rebecca Moll for presenting her honors thesis project "Neuroplasticity-related protein expression in the piglet brain" at the Undergraduate Research Symposium! Rebecca will studying veterinary medicine at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign this Fall 2017. 

 

 

Assessing piglet behavior through exploration of objects, tools to explore piglet cognition

March 15, 2017 by
  • In a recent study researchers Stephen Fleming, graduate student, and Dr. Ryan Rilger, animal scientist, measure piglet exploratory behavior using the Novel Object Recognition Test.
  • This paper discusses the ability of piglets to recognize previously seen objects and the way they explore their environment. Measuring exploratory behavior provides a tool to assess piglet cognition, which will be used in the future to explore the effects of nutrition on cognitive development.
  • Behavioral Brain Research Publication:

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166432816307458

Better early nutrition, better brains: Study discusses model for understanding nutrition and brain development

January 20, 2017 by
  • In a recent review article published in Advances in Nutrition, Ryan Dilger, a U of I animal scientist and Austin Mudd, a doctoral student in the neuroscience program, provide background for the work they do with nutrition and neurodevelopment using the piglet as a model.

  • The new paper highlights several studies on pediatric nutrition of which brain development outcomes were the primary interest. The paper also describes technologies, including advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), that are being used to assess brain development, as well as outlines areas for future nutrition and neurodevelopment research.

  • Original Press Release

  • Advances in Nutrition Publication: http://advances.nutrition.org/content/8/1/92

Choline deficiency during pregnancy influences milk composition in sows

October 21, 2016 by
  • Choline, an essential nutrient, is used by the body in many ways, including in the makeup of cellular membranes and neurodevelopment.
  • Choline deficiency during pregnancy has been shown to delay brain development in pig studies.
  • A new study shows choline deficiency during pregnancy also affects the nutrient composition of sow milk up to 19 days after birth.
  • The study also shows similarities in choline metabolites in sow and human milk composition.
  • Original Press Release
  • Journal of Nutrition Publication: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/early/2016/10/12/jn.116.238832.abstract

Novel combination of ingredients may offer greater support for infant brain development

February 24, 2016 by
  • Study looks at effects of using a combination of dietary prebiotics, milk fat globule membrane, and lactoferrin on brain development.
  • Results of neuroimaging show that supplementation of these ingredients positively influenced postnatal brain development in the piglet model; a potentially important finding to consider when developing new pediatric nutrition products. 
  • Original Press Release
  • Frontiers Publication: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fped.2016.00004/full