Pregnancy and Developmental Programming
Increased understanding of animal reproduction at molecular, cellular, and whole animal levels is critical for improving production efficiency in animal agriculture and enhancing human health. Independent of the species, if a pregnancy doesn’t establish and successfully result in live offspring, the species is not sustainable. Additionally, a broader understanding of the impact of suboptimal environmental exposure during pregnancy or early postnatal life suggests that reproductive success is a lifelong measurement of an animal’s performance, in addition to historically calculated pre- and early post-natal morbidity and mortality. Developmental programming touches every aspect of physiology and therefore impacts all areas of livestock production, including 1) reproductive outcomes; 2) immune function; 3) growth, metabolism, and efficiency; 3) stress response; 4) behavior; and more. This concept is not new; however, the mechanistic basis of this process has recently come to the forefront. Thus, pregnancy and developmental programming of both livestock and humans have taken on increased levels of importance. Nutrition, stress, and environmental contaminants all play roles in programming gene expression in the developing conceptus. Discovery and innovation in this Area of Excellence will allow for the generation of foundational knowledge and the development of applied technologies and strategies that will positively impact the state, the nation, and the world.
Our goal is to be the world leader in pregnancy and developmental programming of livestock. Our vision is to enhance reproductive efficiencies and outcomes via an increased understanding of mechanisms supporting embryonic survival, relationships between intrauterine nutrition, immune function, neonatal survival, and improved utilization of nutrients in livestock species and laboratory animals, as well as pre-and post-pubertal development and functionality.