K-State's Barry Bradford Discusses the New Field of ImmunometabolismTue, 10 Sep 2019 19:05:03 CDT
Adaptations and collaboration
Immune and metabolic systems in cattle share and collaborate for growth, development and health from fetus to feedyard or pasture. Kansas State University animal scientist Barry Bradford takes us into this relatively new field of study.
Analyzing the links between everyday organ function and immune systems may lead to better animal health.
"Immunometabolism is an emerging field, studying how immune cells interact with the major organs of the body to compete for, to share, to utilize nutrients—and it's especially important during times of illness, because the body really makes a lot of adaptations to make sure that the immune system has what it needs to combat the infection," Bradford said.
Watch a short video-clip featuring Barry Bradford, Kansas State University animal scientist, shares his thoughts on a new field of research, by clicking or tapping the PLAYBOX in the window below.
Do productive efficiency and immune health go hand in hand?
"We clearly know animals become less efficient if they're sick, so what we don't know as much is, if you try to ramp up the immune system all the time so that they're less likely to get sick, does that actually cost you enough calories and nutrients that it doesn't pay off? Or does preventing disease have that benefit, enough benefit, to pay for that extra immune system cost? And it probably depends on the environment they're in."
Take macrophages for example:
"Macrophages are one key type of cell that the immune system uses to try to combat potential invading organisms quickly," he said. "They're out there. They're not the ones that we try to influence when we vaccinate. They're there looking for any sign of a bacteria, especially. What's unique about them is they live in the tissues. They're not really swimming around the bloodstream."
These special cells apparently have another role, as Bradford’s team recently discovered.
"What we're really learning now is they're not just there looking for signs of bacteria, signs of infection, they're also playing really important roles in regulating how the tissue actually works day to day," Bradford said. "Things like turning on a breakdown of body fat when the animal doesn't have enough energy, is actually influenced by these immune cells, which we used to think of as only playing a role in infectious scenarios."
He challenges the way we think about nutritional support for sick animals.
"If you've got cows out on a thousand acres, you know it's not that easy to go give her some supplement that's specifically for her."
But in a feedyard environment, it might be another story…
"If you're pulling cattle to treat them for respiratory disease, it wouldn't be that hard to have a pen where you keep them for a while and maybe feed them a different diet that's intended specifically to enhance immune response to that infection."
There are still more questions than answers, but research will keep after it.
"It kind of amazes me, actually, that we haven't dug into that to this day."
Source: Certified Angus Beef
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