Michigan Animal Health Foundation Funds Three Research Grants

MVMA’s non-profit arm, the Michigan Animal Health Foundation (MAHF), is a charitable trust founded in 1969 to give veterinarians and their clients an opportunity to fund critical research that benefits the health and welfare of animals.  Over the years, the foundation has been involved in a wide variety of research projects for both small and large animals.  The MAHF Board of Trustees met in June and evaluated several excellent proposals.  Trustees agreed to provide grants for three of the research projects:

Is Brine Fine?  Efficacy of a Saturated Salt Solution as an Alternative to Formalin for Storage of Anatomy Specimens

Formalin is a known carcinogen that has been a staple for maintaining specimens for teaching veterinary anatomy for many years.  The unpleasant smell and human health risks are substantial and take away from the learning environment.  Students are increasingly reluctant to spend time dissecting cadavers and examining prosections (pre-dissected and labelled specimens made by the instructors to demonstrate muscles/nerves/vessels that are used over many years) due to the noxious nature of formalin, especially as side effects can include difficulty breathing, rashes, burning sensations in the eyes and throat, nausea, chest tightness and headaches.  This can impact a student’s competency in anatomy, which is an essential building block for both future coursework and success in veterinary medicine and/or veterinary technology.

To reduce the formalin exposure, the anatomy department at MSU CVM has undertaken storage of specimens in a saturated salt solution – essentially brining our specimens to preserve them.  Anecdotally, this solution works just as well to preserve specimens as the more carcinogenic formalin and at a fraction of the cost.  This project would evaluate the ability of various known specimen storage solutions (formalin, saturated salt, Wardsafe and Klotz solution) to prevent mold growth, maintain specimen integrity, and reduce the smell of preserved anatomy specimens over the course of three months. 

It is hypothesized that initially preserving the specimen in formalin followed by brine long-term storage provides less formalin exposure and a better quality teaching aid than other common specimen storage solutions.  The saturated saline solution will offer a significant advancement in reducing exposure to harmful chemicals – one that will benefit students in Michigan as well as elsewhere in the country.

Controlling Mastitis in Dairy Cattle with Antioxidant Vitamin D Therapy

The long-term goal is of this project is to identify efficacious mastitis therapies that reduce the dairy industry’s dependence on antimicrobial drug use. Mastitis is the most devastating disease affecting adult dairy cows in the United States with economic losses of approximately 2 billion dollars annually. The incidence and severity of mastitis is greatest when dairy cattle experience increased oxidative stress. Oxidative stress results from an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by immune cells during inflammation and the depletion of protective antioxidant defenses. Major sources of antioxidants are derived from micronutrients provided in the diets of dairy cows. Vitamin D is recognized as an antioxidant micronutrient in human medicine.

In recent years, there also is compelling evidence to suggest that intramammary vitamin D treatment can reduce the severity of mastitis. There are no data in dairy cattle, however, that examines the antioxidant potential of vitamin D treatments in dairy cattle suffering from mastitis. The hypothesis of this project is that treating cows with vitamin D during mastitis will reduced oxidative stress and hasten the resolution of disease. To test this hypothesis, we will obtain previously collected plasma and milk samples from our collaborators at the University of Florida that examined the treatment effects of vitamin D in an experimental model of Streptococcus uberis mastitis. We will analyze the samples for the gold standard biomarker of oxidative stress, 15-F2t-isoprostane. These analyses will be used to 1) determine the extent to which vitamin D intramammary treatment can reduce oxidative damage to the mammary gland during mastitis, and 2) determine if vitamin D-induced reductions in oxidative stress are associated with resolution of mastitis in dairy cows.

The results from these proposed studies will have an immediate impact on dairy herd health management programs by providing the first evidence-based recommendations for controlling localized oxidative damage to mammary tissues during mastitis. The long-term implications of this study will be to reduce the use of antimicrobial drugs by enhancing the natural defenses of the bovine mammary gland.

The Mazunte Project

The Mazunte Project is an International spay/neuter, surgery, shelter medicine externship for MSU CVM students in Oaxaca, Mexico.  The project works with the National Turtle Center in Mazunte, Mexico.  The Mazunte Project’s goal is to help control the feral dog population by providing veterinary health care in villages along the Pacific Coast of Oaxaca.  The program has played a vital role in decreasing the feral dog population on beaches that are vital nesting grounds for endangered sea turtle populations.  Additional information can be found at https://cvm.msu.edu/about/international-programs/the-mazunte-project.  MSU CVM student participation began in 2016 when two students gained valuable surgical and shelter medicine experience in an international setting.  Three students participated in the externship process in 2017 and four scholarships will be provided in 2018.