Endocrine, immune and enzymatic responses in healthy and sick animals
Research Program “Endocrine, immune, and enzyme responses in healthy and sick animals” is carried out at the Veterinary Faculty in Ljubljana. Researches from the Institute of preclinical sciences, Clinic for reproduction and large animals and Clinic for Small Animals participate in the program. Our major goal is to obtain basic knowledge about the organism in health and disease with particular emphasis on oxidative stress and cell differentiation as well as to develop a cutting edge biotechnology protocols and treatment alternatives. Research work is conducted within three thematic areas.
First deals with the pathophysiological changes that can be a consequence of an imbalance between reactive oxygen and nitrogen species formation and antioxidant mechanisms or imbalance between pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokine formation. These processes are investigated in different pathologic conditions such as periodontal disease and cardiovascular diseases in dogs. Clinical results contribute toward improved treatment and suitability assessments of pre-clinical animal models in comparative medicine.
Production animal studies focus on metabolic stress and disease development in early postpartum period in high yielding dairy cows. Oxidative stress markers are assessed the in the serum, plasma and follicular fluid originating from bovine antral follicles and in bull spermatozoa. We also develop semen preservation protocols and identify new biomarkers for prediction of semen quality in domestic animals.
To assess the quality of pork meat, expression pattern of myosin isoforms and metabolic enzymes activity in the myofibers of wild and different domestic pig breeds are compared. In parallel, we determine the polymorphisms of genes that are modulators of growth and could affect meat quality.
Second thematic area includes studies on the impact of biologically active molecules that have a potential to reduce muscle tone during surgical procedures. To assess the preclinical potential of these molecules we study their effects at the cellular, organ and whole organism levels.
Brain sexual differentiation studies are part of the third thematic area. We utilize unique mouse model, SF-1 knockout mice that are never exposed to any endogenous sex steroid hormones. This model allows studies of gender-differences caused by sex chromosomes independently of sex hormones. This is closely connected with analysis of gender-related differences in the functioning of hormone receptors and optimization of cell-based screening assays for selected receptor targets, which could lead to the development of new drugs.
Important aspect of our work is to translate obtained knowledge into praxis. We successfully introduced adipose-derived adult stem cell auto-transplantation for the treatment of joint disorders in dogs and horses. For its commercialization a spin-out company called Animacel was established. Electrochemo- and electrogene therapy was also introduced in the veterinary oncology treatment of certain tumor diseases.
We publish our research findings in high-quality scientific journals; a high citation rate confirms recognition of our results and enables us to cooperate with top research institutions. Members of the research program give invited lectures at foreign universities and international conferences and are members of editorial boards of international journals. Acquired knowledge is also successfully implemented in the study programmes, thereby contributing to the quality of the teaching process.
More about the results of the research groups can also be found on Sicris.
The Health of Animals, Environment and Safe Food
Many diseases threaten the health of the animals. Diseases can be caused by infectious agents as a result of animal breeding management or incorrect and poor nutrition. This is directly linked with protection and human health. Research in this field includes the detection and typing of pathogens, frequency and their transmissibility and finding ways of preventing disease in domestic and wild animals, including fish and bees. Research is also focused on topical diseases, such as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, tick-transmitted diseases, borne diseases, Visna, viral arthritis-encephalitis and other infectious and non-infectious encephalopathy. Special attention is devoted to the study of certain types of tumors which are caused by oncogenic viruses. Another area of research are tumors that occur in animals that live in similar environments to humans or wild animals. These types of tumors may be an indicator of the transmission of pathogens between animal species or pollution of the environment.
The health of animals and humans and their immune system depends on quality and healthy food, therefore, research is also focused on studying the role of unsaturated fatty acids in animal feed and pasture vegetation on some parameters of health, defense mechanisms of organisms and the course of disease in animals and humans. The current problem is also associated with poor quality and harmful food both for animals and humans. Harmful foods may contain large amounts of natural anti-nutrients and toxic substances such as pesticides, radionuclides, heavy metals and residues of medicines. Animal feed can also be contaminated with saprophytic and pathogenic bacteria, and molds and their toxins. Research in this area is aimed at detecting and properly solving the problems associated with the provision of safe food and thus, indirectly, to the protection of human health.
In the context of the programme, research is also aimed at providing a suitable environment for health and optimising the production of animals, and also in the preservation of the environment against pollution due to intensive farming and treatment of a large number of animals in one place. These are related to the study of the impact of drug residues in the environment (ecotoxicology) and by the study of the non-harmful disposal of excreta and organic waste resulting from intensive livestock production and food processing activities (composting).
Faster detection and typing of pathogens and various indicators of disease in intensive and extensive breeding will contribute to more efficient and rational solving of current problems of breeders of domestic animals, and the rational exploitation of renewable natural resources (farming game).
Research focused on discovering the molecular mechanisms of the life cycle of pathogens and studying the immune response in infected animals, allows for the development of new diagnostic methods and planning of new approaches for timely detection and typing of the agent, which ensures more effective suppression and prevention of the spread of disease. Research in the field of neuropathology will contribute to a better understanding of the situation with regard to viral and other diseases of the central nervous system in domestic and certain species of wildlife, knowledge of the secondary effects of subclinical forms of infections of the central nervous system, and to understanding the interaction of the immune status of animals and neuropathology. The results of the research will be complemented by data for risk analysis of the occurrence of neuropathological diseases and conditions, and programmes for combating and prevention of diseases of the central nervous system caused by biological and other factors. By examining the role of unsaturated fatty acids in food, especially in sick animals and humans, certain metabolic mechanisms and their beneficial effects on the defense mechanisms of the organisms and the course of disease will be explained. Research in the field of health suitability and quality of animal feed and foods of animal origin, and respectively providing healthy food, will be important for maintaining good animal health, consumer protection, as well as protecting the environment. Research related to the study of the effects of residues of veterinary medicines on the environment (ecotoxicological studies) will assess the level of risk to the natural environment and contribute to greater safety of use of medicinal products. The results of the research of non-harmful disposal of excreta and organic waste generated in livestock, agricultural and food processing activities, will give guidelines for proper handling and disposal of such waste and the preservation of a healthy environment.
Doc. Dr. Matjaž Ocepek, Programme Group Leader
Prof. Dr. Olga Zorman Rojs, Leader in the area of animal health
Prof. Dr. Andrej Pengov, substitute
Doc. Dr. Vlasta Jenčič, substitute
Prof. Dr. Anton Vidrih, substitute in the area of environment
Research Councellor, Prof. Dr. Anton Vengušt, Leader in the area of food safety
Prof. Dr. Ksenija Šinigoj Gačnik, substitute
Dr. Bajc Zlatka
Dr. Biasizzo Majda
Prof. Dr. Bidovec Andrej
Dr. Bole Hribovšek Vojislava
Dr. Borko Črtomir
Prof. Dr. Dobeic Martin
Doc. Dr. Dovč Alenka
Prof. Dr. Grom Jože
Dr. Gruntar Igor
Doc. Dr. Hostnik Peter
Prof. Dr. Juntes Polona
Doc. Dr. Klinkon-Ogrinec Martina
Prof. Dr. Kompan Dragomir
Prof. Dr. Kompan Lidija
Research Fellow Dr. Krt Branko
Dr. Lindtner-Knific Renata
Doc Dr. Malovrh Tadej
Dr. Pintarič Štefan
Dr. Pislak Ocepek Metka
Dr. Slavec Brigita
Research Fellow Dr. Tavčar- Kalcher Gabrijela
Doc. Dr. Toplak Ivan
Dr. Vadnjal Stanka
Dr. Valenčak Zdravko
Doc. Dr. Vengušt Gorazd
Dr. Vidrih Matej
Prof. Dr. Zadnik Tomaž
Doc Dr. Zdovc Irena
Doc. Dr. Breda Jakovac – Strajn
Professional and Technical Staff
Čedo Bogataj MarkoBursač
Andrej Frelih Gregor
Marija Nemec MSc
Urška Jamnikar Ciglenečki
More about the results of the programme groups can be found on Sicris