March 27, 2013

CSU’s Animal Science Breaks New Ground

In 2011 Steven Dow and researchers in his laboratory at Colorado State University were studying drugs expected to block vaccine responses in mice.

But the results surprised them.

Instead of suppressing vaccines’ effectiveness, the drugs actually enhanced vaccine immunity, providing new insights into the way vaccine responses actually were being regulated.

That “chance discovery,” Dow said, has stimulated a new line of research for his lab at CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science, testing how drugs that target a class of white blood cells known as monocytes can be used to boost cancer and vaccine treatments.

After early studies using mice, Dow and his team are starting clinical trials in dogs. They also have launched a startup company to develop the research commercially in conjunction with CSU Ventures, the university’s technology transfer office.

“We’re excited about this because it has applications both for cancer patients and healthy individuals,” Dow said, adding that applications of the technology may benefit both human and animal medicine.

Dow and other CSU veterinary scientists have made a habit of producing groundbreaking discoveries, building on Colorado State’s worldwide reputation as a leading animal-sciences research institution.

Just as CSU at large has successfully grown its research budget in recent years, the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences has maintained top-tier funding. College research expenditures totaled more than $56 million in 2011, marking the sixth straight year that school funds have exceeded $50 million.

The money has supported faculty and researchers in important investigations into causes and treatments of animal cancers, infectious diseases, reproductive health issues, and other pressing concerns. Findings and innovations have made CSU a destination for pet owners, ranchers, and zoo managers who seek animal cancer treatment, among other services, while supporting research that aids people as well as critters of all sizes.

“We’ve got a tradition of doing cutting-edge research on both large and companion animals,” said Sue VandeWoude, associate dean for research at the veterinary medicine college, who studies the biology, occurrence and treatment of feline leukemia and feline immunodeficiency virus in house cats, mountain lions, and bobcats.

With roots as an agricultural college, Colorado State and its veterinary science program initially became more oriented toward livestock and equine health to serve the state and nation’s ranchers. A new emphasis toward companion animals developed in the 1950s, as postwar America became more suburban and families’ relationships with animals and pets changed.

In addition, CSU veterinary scientists now work across a range of research and applied fields to explore how animal treatments can be translated to benefit humans.

The Musculoskeletal Research Program promotes studies and treatments that prevent and treat muscular and skeletal injuries and diseases and other orthopedic maladies, including osteoporosis in horses. The Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory focuses on reproductive biology and technologies for horses and livestock, with many lab techniques now used commercially around the world for both animals and people. VandeWoude said the reproduction lab’s reputation, resources and successes are so significant that just about every animal fertility clinic in the United States is likely to have a technician trained in Fort Collins.

The school’s advanced technology also provides an indispensable leg up for scientists and physicians, and for the university’s veterinary teaching hospital and its students. The college’s radiology department specializes in veterinary diagnostic imaging, VandeWoude noted, saying, “It’s not that easy to anesthetize a horse.”

Services for companion animals, horses and livestock, and zoo creatures include digital X-rays, CT and PET scans, ultrasound technology for evaluating organ health, and MRI equipment for analyzing brain, spinal cord and joint health. The state-of-the-art operations serve research and applied medical purposes.

Dow and others are also leading pioneering studies of regenerative medicine, using stem cells taken from fat tissue to suppress inflammation in such diseases as asthma and chronic infections. CSU scientists are evaluating the use of stem cell therapy to treat chronic kidney disease in cats and chronic liver disease in dogs. The use of stem cells for suppressing inflammation could also help treat arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, and immune disorders in horses, dogs, cats, and in humans.

Outside the labs, CSU veterinarians help to inform and treat challenges in wildlife and livestock health. In 2012, university technicians and scientists worked with wildlife and ranch managers to diagnose and prevent the spread of rabies outbreaks among local skunks and an anthrax outbreak at a Logan County cattle ranch.

Such public health and community work remains an essential part of CSU’s mission as a public education institution.

In 2011 Steven Dow and researchers in his laboratory at Colorado State University were studying drugs expected to block vaccine responses in mice.

But the results surprised them.

Instead of suppressing vaccines’ effectiveness, the drugs actually enhanced vaccine immunity, providing new insights into the way vaccine responses actually were being regulated.

That “chance discovery,” Dow said, has stimulated a new line of research for his lab at CSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Science, testing how drugs that target a class of white blood cells known as monocytes can be used to boost cancer and vaccine treatments.

After early…

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