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Piglet brain atlas new tool in understanding human infant brain development

Published October 10, 2014
brain imaging
A map created using the MRI based averaged piglet brain atlas. University of Illinois.

URBANA, Ill. – A new online tool developed by researchers at the University of Illinois will further aid studies into postnatal brain growth in human infants based on the similarities seen in the development of the piglet brain, said Rod Johnson, a U of I professor of animal sciences.

Through a cooperative effort between researchers in animal sciences, bioengineering, and U of I’s Beckman Institute, Johnson and colleagues Ryan Dilger and Brad Sutton have developed a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) based brain atlas for the four-week old piglet that offers a three-dimensional averaged brain and anatomical regions of interest. 

This averaged brain atlas, created from images from multiple piglets, will serve as a template for future studies using advanced MRI techniques that can provide important information on brain macro- and microstructure during this critical period of development. The template, as well as tissue probability maps that were also created, are available online and are freely distributed.

“The piglet brain is similar to the human brain in that it is gyrencephalic and experiences massive growth and development in the late prenatal and early postnatal periods. We are concerned that environmental insults such as infection or poor nutrition during these early periods may alter the trajectory of brain development,” Johnson said.

“Pigs provide an excellent translational model for biomedical research. This is a new tool that may be useful to others in the biomedical community,” he added.

While an atlas did already exist for the adult pig, Matthew Conrad, a doctoral student in Johnson’s lab said the previous atlas was created from a single adult animal. “The benefit to using an averaged brain is that it will produce a template that is a better representation of the population. The more animals included the better.”

The atlas was created by taking MRI images of the brains of 15 four-week-old York breed piglets—nine females and six males. The images were then reconstructed into 3D volumes for each pig. Through a series of deformations and averaging of the data sets, the images were eventually aligned to create the final averaged brain.

Conrad explained that having an averaged brain template available will allow better use of the software needed for more advanced techniques in studying the volume of brain regions.

An example of these techniques includes voxel-based morphometry (VBM), which can be used to detect volume difference in the brain. Additionally, diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), which looks at white-matter track development and connectivity in brain regions, and magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), which looks at white matter and neurochemical changes in the brain, are being conducted.

“The atlas will be used as the population average. When new data sets are brought in, you first line up the new brain images to this template,” Conrad said.

In addition to the average brain atlas, Conrad said they also created population averages for white and gray matter as well as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF). “This is another data set that helps predict the tissue classification,” he said.

Previous studies using MRI imaging of piglets have looked at the effects of iron deficiency on brain development. “For that we did MRI imaging and manual segmentation, and with manual segmentation you are looking at volume changes within very large areas of the brain, but with VBM we can pinpoint smaller changes within discrete brain areas,” Conrad said. “We are now reanalyzing data from those piglets and replicating this study with new protocols, which will allow us to see changes that we didn’t see before.”

Another study is looking at the effects of postnatal infections, such as pneumonia, on brain development. “These types of infections are common in infants, and again it’s a period of time when the brain is undergoing rapid development,” Johnson said.

A third study funded by the National Institutes of Health is focused on maternal viral infection during pregnancy. “The goal is to assess how mom’s immune response to infection influences brain development and future behavior of her piglets,” Johnson explained.

Conrad added that the piglet brain is now being recognized for its potential as a translational animal model for neurodevelopmental studies.

“Much of the research on the effects of pre- and postnatal factors on brain development has been done in rodent models, but the rodent brain develops very differently.  Therefore, the piglet can provide a complementary model wherein results better translate to humans,” Johnson said.

The brain atlas project and related studies are funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The atlas and other resources created during this project are available online at http://pigmri.illinois.edu.

An in vivo three-dimensional magnetic resonance imaging-based averaged brain collection of the neonatal piglet (Sus scrofa)” was recently published in PLOS ONE and is available online at http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0107650&representation=PDF. Matthew S. Conrad, Bradley P. Sutton, Ryan N. Dilger, and Rodney W. Johnson were coauthors of the study.

Oct08

ACES International in Action: Food Security Series

12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Morgan-Caterpillar Room of the College of ACES Library, Information and Alumni Center

"The Impact of F2F Volunteering on Agricultural Education and Research in Ethiopia –A Field Report from the Haramaya University”
presented by Dr. Martin Bohn, associate professor in the Department of Crop Sciences

Dr. Bohn will present on his recent experience in the USAID Farmer-to-Farmer (F2F) program that connects farmers and agricultural experts in the United States with counterparts in the East African nations of Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and other developing countries for training and technical assistance.

Funding for mobile digital labs brings technology to the public

Published October 2, 2014
DigiTech Hub
Photo courtesy of the C-U Community Fab Lab

URBANA, Ill. – DigiTech hubs, sometimes called “makerspaces,” will soon be available in Illinois due to special initiative funding from University of Illinois Extension. The mobile laboratories, which will rotate among U of I Extension sites throughout the state, will serve as high-tech inventor workshops equipped with tools for participants to learn about digital technology—from audio production to 3D printing. 

“Members of the community will be able to make podcasts, experiment with soldering, create small robots, and learn how to do 3D design using the latest digital tools,” said Jon Gant, director of the Center for Digital Inclusion, professor at the U of I’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and principal investigator of the project. “Enabling this kind of innovation and creativity is key to twenty-first century technological and economic development.”

The hubs are just one component of a larger Illinois Digital Innovation Leadership Program that is designed to increase opportunities for entrepreneurship, economic development, and innovation through the expansion of digital manufacturing, digital media production, and data analytics.

Digital Innovation Leadership staff will work with 4-H clubs, public libraries, and public schools to develop permanent community-based and -supported studios, creating a network that will build statewide capacity in digital design, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship.

This is one of six collaborative projects led by interdisciplinary faculty and staff from across the U of I campus to further Extension’s education and outreach mission. It is a special partnership between Extension, the dean of the College of Agricultural, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences, and the Office of the Provost. The six projects were selected from a pool of 71 pre-proposals from 16 different campus units. The Extension and Outreach Initiative is aimed at establishing new collaborations between Extension and departments and units across campus.

For more information, visit extension.illinois.edu or cdi.lis.illinois.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

News Writer:

University of Illinois Extension
Nov06

Gamma Sigma Delta ACES Graduate Fellows Awards Luncheon

12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Alice Campbell Alumni Center, 601 South Lincoln Avenue, Urbana, Illinois

Join the College of ACES and Gamma Sigma Delta in celebrating scholarly excellence of their recent graduates. Faculty members will be in attendance to honor the graduates who will be recognized at the event.

New web-based decision tools for dairy producers

Published August 28, 2014

URBANA, Ill. – In place of milk price and revenue support programs, the 2014 Farm Bill has created the Margin Protection Program for Dairy Producers (MPP), allowing a dairy operator to self-select coverage options to protect the farm against declines in national average production margins. A web-based decision support tool and companion educational materials have been developed to help dairy operators make key coverage decisions for both the MPP and the Livestock Gross Margin-Dairy (LGM-Dairy) insurance program.

The tool can be found at: www.fsa.usda.gov/mpptool and www.farmdoc.illinois.edu/farmbilltoolbox.

Researchers at the University of Illinois led the National Coalition for Producer Education (NCPE) to develop the tools along with the USDA Farm Service Agency and the National Program on Dairy Markets and Policy (DMaP- www.dairymarkets.org).

“The MPP decision tool is designed with farmers in mind,” said U of I agricultural economist John Newton. “Tool users need only input their milk production history, and then in just four clicks of a mouse, farmer-specific MPP registration forms can be generated.” Newton said that the tool is also optimized to run on a wide platform of electronic devices.

“With the MPP decision tool, dairy farmers can use farm-specific milk production variables in conjunction with daily CME Group futures prices as part of the consideration for coverage-level choices under MPP and LGM-Dairy,” Newton said.

“To highlight the strategic thinking that needs to occur during the registration and coverage modification process, dairy farmers using the MPP decision tool have the ability to analyze historical U.S. milk and feed prices,” Newton said. “This feature is for research purposes only, but provides the opportunity for dairy farmers to go back in time to determine how MPP would have worked as a risk management instrument had it been in place during prior years.”

Newton said that for dairy operators who would like to use their own expectations of milk, feed, and margin price risk, the MPP decision tool will soon include an advanced interface that will allow dairy operations to self-select all 48 milk and feed prices to determine how MPP may function to smooth dairy production margins.

“Another helpful feature is that when dairy operators use the MPP decision tool, with one click of the mouse they can easily toggle between the MPP web tool and the LGM-Dairy Analyzer ©, which they can use to examine forthcoming insurance contract offerings and anticipated premium costs,” Newton said. 

In partnership with NCPE, DMaP will host five Train-the-Trainer workshops across the United States, including one on Sept. 11 in Chicago.

For more information and educational material, visit www.fsa.usda.gov/mpptool and  www.dairymarkets.org/MPP .

 

 

 

 

News Source:

John Newton, 217-300-1051

Free webinars help young adults get financially “$avvy”

Published August 26, 2014
Graphic dollar signs

URBANA, Ill. – Understanding available financial tools, how to use credit wisely, and investment strategies can help minimize debt and increase wealth. These and other money-management strategies will be presented in six free “Get $savvy: Grow Your Green Stuff” webinars, designed especially for the challenges faced by college students and young adults.

“Young adults need quality unbiased financial education to help them establish strong financial roots,” said University of Illinois Extension consumer economics educator Kathy Sweedler, who is coordinating the webinars. “Although this is true of adults at all ages, it’s especially true for those who have tried to enter the job force since the Great Recession. They’re up against high unemployment rates and saddled with significant student loan debt. The Project on Student Debt reported that the average amount of debt was $28,028.”

Registration is available at  http://go.uillinois.edu/GetSavvyRegistration. Individuals can register for one webinar or all six and “attend” from any computer with Internet access.

All six webinars will be offered on Tuesdays at 4 p.m. CST.

Dates and topics are:

Sept. 16 - Establishing your Roots

Explore the merits of various financial tools, such as a checking account, prepaid card, debit card, savings account, or a combination.

Oct. 21 - Staying on Good Terms with Credit

Learn how to choose the best credit cards and loans and how to avoid common debt mistakes.

Nov. 11 - Steps Toward Investing

Stocks, bonds, IRAs and other investing adventures

Jan. 27, 2015 - Life Transitions

Financial tools to help proactively manage life changes, such as moving, relationships, and new jobs

Feb. 24 - Job Benefits

Job benefits, such as retirement plans and health care, can significantly change an individual’s net worth. Learn how to make the most of the options.

April 21 - Love Your Loan

Student loans can be confusing and many repayment options exist. This webinar will explore some of the choices.

The webinars are hosted by University of Illinois Extension and University Student Financial Services and Cashier Operation’s Student Money Management Center.

 

Sep08

The Inaugural International Food Security Initiative Lecture presented by Gerald Nelson

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
Monsanto Room, College of ACES Library

The Inaugural International Food Security Initiative Lecture:
“Global Food Security in the Face of Changing Climate”
Presented by Gerald Nelson

Gerald Nelson is Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Jerry was the principal author of the report “Advancing Global Food Security in the Face of a Changing Climate” released by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in May 2014. He most recently served as a Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, DC where he coordinated its climate change research, led the policy analysis activities of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security, and was the principal investigator on major projects on food security and climate change issues funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the German and British aid agencies.

His research includes global modeling of the interactions among agriculture, land use, and climate change; consequences of macro-economic, sector and trade policies and climate change on land use and the environment using remotely sensed, geographic and socioeconomic data; and the assessment of the effects of genetically modified crops on the environment. Jerry was the coordinating lead author of the Drivers chapter of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Scenarios work. Previously, he was Professor in the Department of Agricultural Consumer Economics at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, served as Visiting Scholar at the Economic Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and was Specialist and Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of the Philippines. Jerry has been quoted in many publications, including the Economist, The New York Times, the British newspaper The Guardian, and the Tehran Times.
 
The International Food Security Initiative (IFSI), a new program of the Office of International Programs at the College of ACES, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, seeks to focus the expertise and resources of the University of Illinois to address the global challenge of ensuring that all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food to achieve their human potential.

 

Aug22

College of ACES New Student Welcome

1:00 PM - 4:00 PM
First and lower levels of the ACES Library, 1101 S. Goodwin Ave, Urbana, IL 61801

This event is part of campus’ Welcome Week and takes place after Convocation and the New Student Picnic. The ACES New Student Welcome is the chance for incoming freshman and transfer students to visit ACES registered student organization tables and mingle with some of our college’s student leaders, faculty, staff, and administrators. All ACES faculty and staff have been invited to attend.

Dec05

JBT Banquet

5:00 PM - 8:00 PM
IHotel and Conference Center
Oct02

ACES Scholarship Reception

4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
IHotel and Conference Center

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