April 02, 2015

ASAS: Making an impact at Experimental Biology

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April 2, 2015 – Several ASAS members participated in a symposium at the Experimental Biology 2015 meeting, held March 28 to April 1 in Boston.

The symposium was part of an American Society for Nutrition (ASN) session centered on “Maternal/Fetal Nutrition and Programming: What Have We Learned from Farm Animal Models?” The session took place on Sat., March 28. It was supported by the Mead Johnson Pediatric Nutrition Institute.

ASAS members Dr. Gretchen Hill, Michigan State University, and Dr. Teresa Davis, USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine, chaired the symposium. Four ASAS members gave presentations focused on pediatric nutrition and early development, including:

  • Dr. Fuller Bazer, Texas A&M University, who discussed “Select Nutrients and Their Effects on Conceptus Development in Mammals.”
  • Dr. Russ Anthony, Colorado State University, who discussed “Altering Specific Functions of the Ruminant Placenta: New Approaches to Assess Causation of Fetal Growth Restrictions.”
  • Dr. Larry Reynolds, North Dakota State University, who spoke about the “Role of Nutrition in Vascular Dysfunction and Prematurity.”
  • Dr. Allison Meyer, University of Missouri, who discussed “The Role of the Small Intestine in Developmental Programming: Impact of Maternal Nutrition on the Dam and Offspring.”

EB3-2015Dr. Hill said she hopes the presence and participation of ASAS members in the scientific program at EB will bring about improved communication and recognition between the animal science and nutrition societies.

The symposium grew out of a need to provide background and knowledge relative to the importance of agricultural animals in nutrition research as it relates to humans. “It was easy to focus on reproduction and healthy offspsrings since this is a goal in human and animal biology,” Dr. Hill said. “Additionally, there are many outstanding animal scientists who have reported in the scientific literature important discoveries using farm animals as their model.”

Dr. Bazer summarized the presentations: “Our discussion focused on signaling from the conceptus (embryo/fetus and trophectoderm/chorion) that not only allows establishment of pregnancy, but also increases expression of specific genes that transport nutrients required for growth and development of the conceptus into the uterine lumen. A key nutrient of interest in my talk was arginine, which can be metabolized to produce nitric oxide for increasing vascular development within the pregnant uterus, as well as stimulate proliferation, migration and gene expression by cells of the conceptus. The subsequent talks by Drs. Anthony and Reynolds continued that theme, but with focus on placental hormones that are critical to development of the placenta initially so that the placental transport mechanisms are sufficient to ensure growth of the fetus that culminates in a successful outcome of pregnancy. Further, these key events can be adversely affected by both over-and under-nutrition. Finally, Dr. Meyer’s talk reminded us that the gastrointestinal tract of the mother also undergoes considerable change in terms of morphology, rate of passage of nutrients and efficiencies in digesting and absorbing nutrients.”

Dr. Anthony’s presentation also included a discussion of the new approaches that his group and others are developing to address specific gene function in the placenta. “Our approach was to use lentiviral-mediated knockdown of placental lactogen expression, which was found to result in significant placental and fetal growth restriction near term, as well as altered uterine glucose uptake and reduced fetal insulin and insulin-like growth factors,” he said. “These new approaches can now be coupled with “old” approaches (i.e., maternal and fetal cannulation and instrumentation) to assess steady state nutrient transfer and utilization.”

Pictured left to right: Larry Reynolds, Teresa Davis, Fuller Bazer, Russ Anthony, Allison Meyer, and Gretchen Hill