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Research Overview

Work in the lab is unified around using applied molecular genetic technologies to study and modify the traits of livestock. Research is focused on three main areas: 1) applications of genetic engineering and gene editing in livestock (goats and pigs), 2) safety of genetic engineering/gene editing in livestock and 3) use of molecular technologies to study microbiota populations in farm animals and goat casein genotypes. Our main work revolves around generating and studying genetically engineered and gene edited livestock. We work to show that milk from genetically engineered goats that contains the antimicrobial human lysozyme can be used to treat and prevent diarrheal illness in children. To accomplish this, we use the pig as a more appropriate human-relevant animal model and have developed pig models of human disease including E. coli infection, malnutrition and inflammatory bowel disease.  With these studies, we focus on the role goat milk and milk components play on intestinal and overall health with the goal of  determining the links between gut microbiota modulation and host health. Before these genetic technologies can be employed to benefit animal and human health, their safety must be assessed. As such, we conduct research to determine if there are any unintended consequences that result from the genetic engineering and gene editing of food animals. Lastly, we employ molecular techniques to investigate the microbiota composition of milk and manure of dairy animals (goats and cows) and the role goat casein genotypes play on milk production parameters. Overall our work advances our understanding of the safety and potential use of genetically engineered food animals to contribute to food safety and security and the key roles microbiota and genotypes can play on animal health and productivity. For more detailed descriptions of the projects ongoing in the lab, see the following pages.