The physiological metabolic adaptation in the liver of the transition dairy cow to lactation and the mammary gland immune system are two major research topics of the Veterinary-Physiology group of the Vetsuisse Faculty of the University of Bern, Switzerland.
In vivo and in vitro studies on these research topics are carried out, but emphasis is also put on integrative studies that focus on the interaction between hepatic and mammary gland metabolism and immune defence.
The significance of the research carried out by the group is based on the long-term aim to reduce the incidence of metabolic and production diseases in dairy cows. Thereby, improving the welfare of the animals, reducing the losses in performance of dairy cows, and reducing the use of antibiotics and other therapeutic drugs in the dairy sector. A reduced use of antibiotics will simultaneously lead to a reduced risk of drug residues in dairy food.
The methods applied by the group are divers. Metabolic hepatic regulation in the transition dairy cow is studied at a molecular level by qRT-PCR to understand which parameters affect regulation of major metabolic processes (e.g. gluconeogenesis and fatty acid metabolism), and to understand the genetic basis for differences in metabolic regulation between individual cows. To realise this, repeated liver biopsy sampling from dairy cows during the period of interest has been established in order to investigate the mRNA expression of a huge number of key metabolic parameters.
Regarding mammary gland immune system, the Veterinary Physiology group has gained a broad experience of skills that enables in depth investigations on this topic. For milk cells the method for staining and microscopic differentiation of cell populations was developed by the group. Furthermore, the stimulation of bovine mammary cells in culture with bacteria or pathogenic bacterial components and inactivated bacteria to test their immune response is a well-established applied method. In addition, the measurements of immunologically important factors by qRT-PCR in milk cells and in mammary gland biopsies, with or without LPS challenge, are part of the research methods applied.
Finally, the group manages a laboratory supporting radio-immunoassays and enzyme-immunoassays for analyses of various hormones and growth factors, and enzymatical determination of metabolites and enzymes.