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Alltech Continues Nutrigenomics Lecture Series at the University of Kentucky

[Lexington, KY] - Alltech, a global leader in animal health and nutrition, presented the second annual Alltech Distinguished Lecture Series in Nutrigenomics at the University of Kentucky on Monday, March 2, 2009. This was the second event in the series, consisting of two seminars on the science of nutrigenomics. Professor Juan J. Loor, an expert in Mammalian NutriPhysioGenomics and a professor in the Department of Animal Sciences & Division of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Illinois, presented the first seminar; Professor Harris Lewin, director of the Institute for Genomic Biology and head of the Department of Animal Sciences at the University of Illinois, presented the second.????

Professor Loor presented the first seminar of the day on the topic of mining gene networks in peripartum dairy cattle to define metabolic genotype-phenotype relationships.? Professor Loor's work focused on nutrigenomic strategies to reduce stress and adapt the liver of post-calving cows to face metabolic challenge. One of his key findings was that the recovery from negative energy balance was linked with increased expression of the gene for Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor Alpha (PPARA), which is a key regulator of fat oxidation and glucose production in liver. Because PPARA is known to be activated by certain fatty acids, Professor Loor's observations allowed him to search for a means to activate this key transcription factor earlier after calving, thereby ameliorating many of the negative effects associated with this period.

During the second seminar, Professor Lewin delivered a very insightful description of how liver metabolism and health in dairy cows prior to and post-calving are affected by nutrition. This is critical because 25% of all dairy cow losses occur in the first 60 days post-calving due to metabolic disorders, such as liver disease, at an estimated annual cost of $60 million. In particular, he described how even moderate overfeeding after calving upregulated a number of genes involved in liver triacylglycerol synthesis (DGAT 1) and proinflammatory cytokines. He went on to detail how certain polymorphisms in the DGAT 1 gene are associated with increased milk fat and decreased milk yield. Finally, he reported that an updated and much more thoroughly annotated version of the bovine genome would soon be released.

Dr. Rosane Oliveira of the University of Illinois hosted a very informative workshop preceding the seminars, demonstrating some of the latest tools in microarray data mining for ontology enrichment of differentially expressed genes and the construction of gene association diagrams or "networks" in bovine models.

Nutrigenomics is based on DNA microarray or "gene chip" technology, which allows investigators to determine how a particular nutrient or set of nutrients act at the most fundamental level possible - gene expression. Genes are the functional units of the genetic code, or DNA, which produce proteins that perform specific tasks within the cells and tissues of all living organisms.

"One practical application of this cutting-edge technology is to clearly define the mode of action of a nutrient at the molecular level," said Dr. Ronan Power, director of Research at Alltech. "Nutrigenomics allows us to examine the expression patterns of literally thousands of genes at a time, assign these genes to biological pathways and thus be able to explain our end-point trial observations by correlating them with biochemical reactions occurring within the cell."

This lecture series will continue on April 8, 2009, with another world-renowned expert in the field of nutritional genomics, Dr. Jack Vanden Heuvel of Penn State. The lecture series is part of the Alltech - UK Nutrigenomics Alliance, which was initiated in 2007 to advance research in the field of nutrigenomics. It seeks to unite the talents and assets of the University of Kentucky's top nutritional scientists and bioinformaticists with those of Alltech's new state-of-the-art Center for Animal Nutrigenomics and Applied Animal Nutrition in Nicholasville, Kentucky. This center is the first of its kind in the world, representing a 20,000 square foot expansion of Alltech's existing research facility.