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August 03
Identifying genes associated with risk of mastitis

DNA, we all have slight differences in our DNA that help make us who we are. For example, tall... my 6 ft brothers versus me at a whopping 5 foot three. I still remember how Skip, my younger brother by a year, lifted me to his eye level... and I could see the top of the refrigerator!  Normally, for me out of sight, out of mind at how dusty that can get!  But I digress. 

Understanding how cow genetics contributes to mastitis susceptibility is Lydia parlor SQMI web.jpganother one of my passions.  Identifying the specific DNA location associated with disease can allow us to test the DNA and genetically select animals more resistant to infection.  But the part I really get into, is what might that DNA region be telling us about controlling disease.  That was the focus of a recent study here at UT. Lydia Siebert, who completed her PhD with me at UT before joining Zoetis as a scientist, evaluated what regions of the bovine DNA were associated with inflammation following infection with a common mastitis-causing bug, Streptococcus uberis.

One of the cool things we were able to do, was identify genes related to how quickly cows cured themselves of Strep uberis infection and the gland returned to a healthy state.  Some cows did this 3x faster than others!  These genes, and those associated with the strength and duration of inflammation, were linked to 1) how a cell signals after contact with bacteria or inflammatory proteins, 2) movement of immune cells to the site of infection, and 3) apoptosis or controlled death of infected or damaged cells. Some of the genes, we expected - others are new. Our next steps.... Dig into those genes, identify their contributions to disease resistance, and ultimately with a lot of hard work, patience, and a little luck use them to help cows prevent or fight off infections. 

The link below will take you to the published paper:

Siebert et al., 2018. Genome-wide association study identifies loci associated with milk leukocyte phenotypes following experimental challenge with Streptococcus uberis. Immunogenetics.


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