Research team

Veterinary physiology and biochemistry

Expertise

The research Group Veterinary Physiology and Biochemistry offers veterinary expertise in planning and executing surgical interventions on animals (eg within the framework of scientific research). It has (limited) stable facilities for large animals (sheep, pigs, horses, cows and small camelids) and offers expertise in veterinary management of animals, within the limits of zootechnical (non-infectious) research experiments. Expertise on housing and management of large animals (dairy cattle industry) is available for third parties and public use. More specifically, a vast expertise is available on reproductive physiology and bovine herd health management. Services are offered within the framework of scientific collaboration or a financial agreement (Jo.Leroy@ua.ac.be). In addition, the research group offers a broad expertise on gene expression techniques, which was initiated within the research group of Ecophysiology, Biochemistry ad Toxicology (EBT, UA) and further developed over the past 5 years. In the future, the collaboration between the two groups will even increase and result in the establishment of a gene expression platform to offer services to other partners within and outside of the University of Antwerp (Dries.Knapen@ua.ac.be).

Improving cow milk production potential by the introduction of a herd health management program on Camaguey's dairy farms in the central-easter region of Cuba. 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Milk production in Cuba struggles to meet the demand of milk in the daily ration of many Cubans. Several factors resulted in a decrease of milk producing potential in dairy cattle herds. The lack of efficient (re)production strategies decreased the number of dairy cows that attain reasonable milk production levels. For this reason, sustainable measures are urgently required to improve the efficiency of dairy cattle management. The general objective of this project is to increase the milk production potential and as a consequence food security and economic well-being in general and of dairy farmers in Camagüey in particular. To do so, the project aims specifically (i) to implement a computer-based herd health management program for dairy herds in the Camagüey province that will permit the follow-up of (re)production, nutrition, and health parame-ters to finally increase milk production efficiency and (ii) to build up ICT capacity and improve digital literacy at the academic as well as the end-user level to stimulate the development of innovative IT solutions for the livestock sector.

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Project website

Fundamental understanding and development of preconception care strategies to improve maternal fertility and to protect offspring's health in obese individuals 01/01/2019 - 31/12/2022

Abstract

Obesity is becoming a global threat, reducing mother's health and reproductive capacities and affecting the offspring's health. Clear preconception care guidelines for obese future mothers are lacking. Clinical studies are flawed and fundamental studies in basic animal models are scarce. The importance of preconception weight loss on reproduction and baby's health is heavily debated and has never been investigated in detail. This project aims to uncover the role and the importance of clinically relevant preconception care advices to obese women planning for pregnancy. To do so, we propose strategically designed fundamental obese mouse models to assess the impact of preconception weight loss, diet normalization, increased physical activity, omega-3 rich diet or the combination thereof. We will focus on four distinct major research challenges: 1) can we find improvements of mother's metabolic profile before conception in relation to the observed weight loss; 2) does the mother's own fertility success increase; 3) can we improve the postnatal health of the offspring and 4) can we safeguard the offspring's reproductive physiology. Physiological and in depth molecular outcome parameters will be combined to generate a clear and integrated view on the effects of preconception care lifestyle interventions. If successful, these novel insights will be the basis for developing future awareness and education programs aiming at improved human maternal health at the time of conception.

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High non-esterified fatty acid concentrations during preimplantation embryo development: Consequences for female fertility and offspring's health. 01/10/2015 - 11/11/2017

Abstract

To further expand on this intriguing patho-phsyiological role of elevated NEFA in the problem of subfertility, it need to be addressed whether NEFA can induce epigenetic changes and whether this affects further embryo development and postnatal health. Therefore, this research proposal concentrates on the effect of oocyte maturation under elevated NEFA conditions on DNA methylation patterns in Day 7 embryos, on further pre-implantation in vivo development and on postnatal health and growth. A state of the art in vitro embryo culture and embryo transfer protocols will be used combined with advanced molecular techniques. The integration of data on Day 7 embryo physiology, DNA methylation, further development and postnatal health could provide key metabolic information on the role of elevated NEFA concentrations in reproductive failure.

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ENVIROMICS, environment toxicology and technology for a durable world. Development and application of diagnostic instruments for industry and policy. 01/01/2015 - 31/12/2020

Abstract

Environmental toxicology (named ecotoxicology further on) is by name a multidisciplinary field involving a wide span of scientifical domains These domains cover areas as biology (and several sub-disciplines thereof), ecology, biochemistry, toxicology, molecular genetics, industrial and process chemistry etc On top of that it touches the sociological field in terms of human and environmental hazard and risk, and even economy by setting environmental standards, thereby directly influencing industrial processes Water treatment technology and risk assessment are both important answers and tools offered to problems put forward by ecotoxicology Both offer and raise questions and problems to be answered It is my believe that ecotoxicology, in its broadest sense, holds the mother key in the solution but has yet to fully gain it.

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Pathways to subfertility: elevated non-esterified fatty acid concentrations as the causative link between maternal metabolic disorders and reduced embryo quality. 01/01/2014 - 31/12/2017

Abstract

This research project concentrates on the effect of oocyte maturation, fertilization and embryo culture under high NEFA conditions on fertilization rate, DNA transcription and methylation patterns in Day 7 embryos.

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High non-esterified fatty acid concentrations during preimplantation embryo development: Consequences for female fertility and offspring's health. 01/10/2013 - 30/09/2015

Abstract

To further expand on this intriguing patho-phsyiological role of elevated NEFA in the problem of subfertility, it need to be addressed whether NEFA can induce epigenetic changes and whether this affects further embryo development and postnatal health. Therefore, this research proposal concentrates on the effect of oocyte maturation under elevated NEFA conditions on DNA methylation patterns in Day 7 embryos, on further pre-implantation in vivo development and on postnatal health and growth. A state of the art in vitro embryo culture and embryo transfer protocols will be used combined with advanced molecular techniques. The integration of data on Day 7 embryo physiology, DNA methylation, further development and postnatal health could provide key metabolic information on the role of elevated NEFA concentrations in reproductive failure.

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The direct effects of elevated serum free fatty acid concentrations on the viability of ovarian follicles and the oocyte's developmental capacity. 01/10/2011 - 06/10/2013

Abstract

Previous research work revealed that metabolic changes, associated with the growing incidence of obese individuals and diabetics, might have harmful repercussions for the reproductive outcome. The consequences of hyperglycemia, due to obesity and diabetes, have already been investigated thoroughly in rats and mice. This research project rather involves another feature of these metabolic pathologies: the high free fatty acid concentrations in blood. The interest of the human assisted reproduction society in a bovine model to assess the influence of free fatty acids on the oocytes developmental competence, on the viability and function of the granulosa cells and the inquisitiveness to the underlying mechanism of these potential effects, imposes us to further research.

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Fertility preservation and pregnancy outcome in cancer patients treated with radio and/or chemotherapy. 01/09/2011 - 31/08/2012

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand a private institution. UA provides the private institution research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Francqui Chair 2010-2011 Prof. Poul Hyttel. 01/10/2010 - 30/09/2011

Abstract

Proposed by the University, the Francqui Foundation each year awards two Francqui Chairs at the UAntwerp. These are intended to enable the invitation of a professor from another Belgian University or from abroad for a series of ten lessons. The Francqui Foundation pays the fee for these ten lessons directly to the holder of a Francqui Chair.

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The consequences of high free fatty acid concentrations in the micro-environment of the oocyte and zygote on metabolic, genetic and epigenetic quality parameters of the pre-implantation embryo. 01/07/2010 - 31/12/2014

Abstract

A disturbed maternal metabolism may induce disappointing fertility and may jeopardize the offspring's health. Only recently, the importance of the early developmental stages in life has gained scientific attention in the study of the pathogenesis of subfertility. This project focuses on the metabolic and (epi)genetic consequences of long-term elevated non-esterified fatty acid serum concentrations in the dam on folliculogenesis, oocyte developmental competence and embryo quality.

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Scientific research on food safety, health and animal welfare (EMBRYOSCREEN). 01/04/2010 - 28/02/2015

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Federal Public Service. UA provides the Federal Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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Improvement of Cuban dairy cattle genetics as an aid to increase milk production potential. 31/12/2009 - 11/12/2014

Abstract

While Cuba slowly recovers Gom an economical disaster in the nineties, there are numerous problems left asking for a sustainable solution, one of which is the severe structural shortage in milk production reflected in the absence of milk in the daily ration of many Cubans. A decline in support from former partners and the embargo lead to the loss of milk producing potential in the remaining cattle herds. The lack of operational reproduction techniques to be used as selection tools, severely decreased the absolute number of dairy cows. The current project aims to re-introduce dairy cattle genetics by creating a nucleus herd of cross bred bulls by applying modern cattle breedmg techniques to fertilize oocytes Gom the best local breed founder cows with (imported) dairy cattle sperm. The use of native breeds assures the cross bred products to be adapted to tropical conditions being resistant to relevant parasitic theads. Following this high-tech first phase of the project, the cross bred bulls themselves will propagate dairy cattle genetics in the population by simple, cheap and sustainable Artificial Insemination and natural mating. This way, relevant genetics can preferentially he made available to those farms which have access to the best cattle feeding conditions.

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The influence of the metabolic status of the dam at conception on the glucose metabolism of the newborn calf. 04/12/2009 - 31/10/2011

Abstract

This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Province of Antwerp. UA provides the Province of Antwerp research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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The direct effects of elevated serum free fatty acids concentrations on the viability of ovarian follicles and the oocyte's developmental capacity: an animal model. 01/10/2009 - 09/11/2011

Abstract

Previous research work revealed that metabolic changes, associated with the growing incidence of obese individuals and diabetics, might have harmful repercussions for the reproductive outcome. The consequences of hyperglycemia, due to obesity and diabetes, have already been investigated thoroughly in rats and mice. This research project rather involves another feature of these metabolic pathologies: the high free fatty acid concentrations in blood. The interest of the human assisted reproduction society in a bovine model to assess the influence of free fatty acids on the oocytes developmental competence, on the viability and function of the granulosa cells and the inquisitiveness to the underlying mechanism of these potential effects, imposes us to further research.

Researcher(s)

Research team(s)

The direct consequences of elevated free fatty acids concentrations in the blood on the viability of ovarian follicles and the oocyte's developmental capacity: an animal model. 01/10/2008 - 30/09/2009

Abstract

Previous research work revealed that metabolic changes, associated with the growing incidence of obese individuals and diabetics, might have harmful repercussions for the reproductive outcome. The consequences of hyperglycemia, due to obesity and diabetes, have already been investigated thoroughly in rats and mice. This research project rather involves another feature of these metabolic pathologies: the high free fatty acid concentrations in blood. The interest of the human assisted reproduction society in a bovine model to assess the influence of free fatty acids on the oocytes developmental competence, on the viability and function of the granulosa cells and the inquisitiveness to the underlying mechanism of these potential effects, imposes us to further research.

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Research team(s)

Kin discrimination and inbreeding avoidance in the domestic cat (Felis sylvestris catus) and the behavioural effects of contraceptives in the female cat. 01/10/2007 - 30/09/2008

Abstract

Though the avoidance of inbreeding (a primary inbreeding avoidance-mechanism) has been seen as one of the possible underlying causes of dispersal in mammals (Greenwood, 1980; Wolff 1993; Perrin & Goudet, 2001; Devillard et al., 2003), it appears that related cats are often found in each others proximity. Because of this, the chance exists that related cats mate. Such inbreeding lowers the fitness, so it is advantageous to develop a secondary inbreeding avoidance-mechanism (Koeninger Ryan et al., 2002). According to Ishida et al. (2001) it appears that females indeed avoid being fertilized by related toms. This implies that they can differentiate between related and non-related animals. In this study, we want to investigate whether cats are able to discriminate relatives from non-relatives and on which mechanisms this could be based. Following on this, we want to examine whether cats have an inbreeding avoidance mechanism based on this discrimination. It is possible that the administration of certain (hormonal) contraceptives causes behavioural changes (Gerber et al., 1973; Chapman, 1991; Hart, 1991), disturbing the inbreeding avoidance mechanism. With this in mind, we will inquire into the effects of different kinds of contraceptives on the mating behaviour, the social behaviour and the daily time-budget of females

Researcher(s)

  • Promotor: Nelissen Mark
  • Co-promotor: Bols Peter
  • Fellow: Peeters Els

Research team(s)

    Perfluoralkyl chemicals in the food chain: a risk analysis to support policy. (PERFOOD). 01/07/2007 - 30/04/2012

    Abstract

    This project represents a formal research agreement between UA and on the other hand the Federal Public Service. UA provides the Federal Public Service research results mentioned in the title of the project under the conditions as stipulated in this contract.

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    Contamination of the food chain and reproductive failure: a multi-disciplinary study in the cow. 01/10/2006 - 30/09/2010

    Abstract

    The impact of environmental contaminants on bovine reproduction is assessed using chemical and bio-analytical methods. The effect of these pollutants on the oocyte quality is assessed by in vitro methods. New genes will be identified that can serve as future biomarkers for oocyte quality. The basis of 'oocyte' banking is initiated, with the aim of preserving oocytes with a high fertilisation capacity.

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    A study on the influence of Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) and Insulin-like Growth Factor-I (IGF-I) on the follicular dynamics of pre-antral bovine ovarian follicles by means of transvaginal ultrasound-guided ovarian biopsies. 01/01/2004 - 31/12/2006

    Abstract

    The proposed study will investigate the impact of local treatment with FSH, IGF-I or a combination of both, on follicular dynamics and oocyte quality of bovine, pre-antral follicles in living donors. To do so, a new technique will be developed and validated, to take ovarian biopsies at regular time intervals during treatment, by means of repeated, ultrasound-guided, transvaginal puncture of the ovaries. This procedure, combined with histological examinations and in vitro culture techniques, will help us to investigate on which follicular stage FSH and IGF-I exert their stimulatory effect. The data collected will offer us new insights on the application of hormonal ovarian stimulation and lead to a better understanding of the primordial to primary stage follicle transition.

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    01/01/2003 - 31/12/2004

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    01/05/2002 - 30/09/2004

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