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Vet med scholars complete summer research

Monday, August 22, 2005

Susceptibility to illness after cold-air workouts, immunization against cattle shipping fever and the spread of bacteria throughout the body by its defensive mechanisms were the topics of prize-winning research projects Oklahoma State University veterinary medicine students completed this summer.

Participants in the 2005 OSU Center for Veterinary Health Sciences Summer Student Research Program recently presented the results of their projects to faculty, staff, other students and guests during a symposium at McElroy Hall. The poster presentations concluded 12 weeks of research study by the first- and second-year College of Veterinary Medicine scholars under the tutelage of faculty mentors.

Dr. Charlotte Ownby, Regents Professor of Physiological Sciences and summer research program coordinator, said projects undertaken in the short-term program tend to complement more comprehensive studies at the CVHS.

Currently, no vaccines completely protect livestock against shipping fever pneumonia. Quantifying the immune response of mice vaccinated with new synthetic proteins developed at the CVHS, Kyla Stevens demonstrated the potential for a highly effective inoculation that employs one of the proteins. Stevens, who received the third-place award, worked under the direction of Drs. Anthony Confer and Sahlu Ayalew from the Veterinary Pathobiology department.

Deanna Reiber received the second-place award for her project involving the causative agent of bubonic plague. Assisted by Drs. Jeff Blair and Ken Clinkenbeard, she illuminated an avirulent strain of the plague with a green fluorescent protein to observe how the bacteria not only survives attack by macrophages but is disseminated throughout the body by the white blood cells. The study was an early step toward efforts in the veterinary pathobiology department to establish an intracellular infection model for plague and understand how it causes disease in humans and animals.

Caroline Williams’ first-place project was rooted in studies at the CVHS equine athletic performance laboratory on the effects of exercise while breathing cold air. The lab’s researchers had previously demonstrated that the impact of compounds secreted by a horse’s immune system to moderate airway inflammation and immune response during cold-air exercise could linger up to five hours. Williams’ study showed that the possible viral immunosuppression resulting from the presence of the molecules may persist for as long as 48 hours.

Williams was advised by veterinary physiological department professors including Drs. Mike Davis and Jerry Malayer. She received a cash award as well as a stipend that will cover registration fees, travel and accommodations for an upcoming veterinary conference.

Additional summer students participating in the program included Barbara Braziel, Amy Royse, Joanna Hyland, Tisha Posey, Ryan Royse, Meaghan McMonagle and Kira Kautz. Their faculty mentors were Ownby and Drs. Robert Fulton, Jeff Ko, Lin Liu, Lyndi Gilliam, Todd Holbrook, Charles MacAllister and Ron Erkert.

Established initially by Drs. Richard Eberle and Tony Confer, the CVHS Summer Student Research Program was supported its first 11 years through the National Institute of Health’s Short-term Research Training Program, a nationwide endeavor to attract aspiring veterinarians to careers in biomedical research. This year, the CVHS funded the endeavor.

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