Current areas of scholarly focus within the College of Veterinary Medicine include infectious diseases, ecosystem health, orthopedic biology, reproductive biology, toxicology, and oncology. Emerging areas of strength include stem cell and regenerative biology, host-microbe interaction, and environmental sustainability.
All of these areas of research fall within the umbrella of "translational biomedical research," the process of applying ideas, insights, and discoveries generated through basic scientific inquiry to the treatment of prevention of animal and human disease.
The college continually reassesses areas of programmatic emphasis to respond to evolving faculty strengths and societal needs and to encourage research focused on addressing and solving real world issues in veterinary medicine, public health, and biomedical science.
Many college researchers investigate the interconnectedness and interdependence of wildlife health, domestic animal health and human health in the context of populations and ecosystems. This encompasses work in such areas as emerging infectious diseases, environmental and/or economic impacts of animal production systems, environmental toxicology, epidemiology of infectious diseases, geographical information systems; and wildlife/exotic/aquatic animal medicine.
A faculty member with a joint appointment in Anthropology leads the Disease Emergence & Ecosystem Health segment of the campus Earth and Society Initiative, which involves researchers across campus. Within this program, college faculty are studying the interplay among anthropogenic environmental change, emerging infectious diseases, biodiversity, and conservation in a national forest in Uganda.
Related college programs with a primary emphasis on teaching and/or service and a smaller focus on research include the Envirovet Summer Institute and related regional Envirovet programs; the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the Zoologic Pathology Program, which provides service to three world-class zoological and aquatic institutions in Chicago,; the Wildlife Medical Clinic,; the zoological medicine rotation at Brookfield Zoo,; the zoological medicine clinical residency program, and our membership in the Conservation Medicine Center of Chicago.
With worldwide attention focused on infectious diseases (many of them zoonoses), the college and its Department of Pathobiology are putting major emphasis on the revitalization of the Center for Zoonoses Research (CZR). Center goals include the promotion of collaborative work and dissemination of information concerning zoonoses research, developing grant applications for NIH and USDA training grants, establishing WHO collaborative center status, and becoming recognized by other international organizations as a research and training center. The Center organizes an Annual Conference on New & Re-Emerging Infectious Diseases and coordinates summer research experiences for students through the pre-veterinary, Merck-Merial Veterinary Research Program, and NIH T35 Veterinary Research Training programs for veterinary students. With 64 members from 13 campus departments and three outside agencies, CZR has grown to a dominant position in the study of infectious diseases. Leadership within the college is concentrated on two areas: the biology of host-pathogen interaction and the ecology of infectious disease. One faculty member has elevated campus visibility with a joint appointment in the newly established Institute for Genomic Biology, in its Host-Microbe Systems Theme.
Oncology research has multiple facets at the college. Clinician scientists in the Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine make substantial contributions to new knowledge in cancer biology while providing superior care to companion animals, combining clinically relevant research with ongoing clinical service at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Current investigations focus on the use of aminobisphosphonates to manage bone pain associated with canine osteosarcoma.
Researchers in the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory work collaboratively on cancer-related research such as immunocytochemical staining of neoplasia, hematopathology of leukemias and lymphomas, interpretative hematology of non-neoplastic diseases, diagnostic cytopathology, and immunohistochemistry.
Orthopedic disease continues to be a significant cause of debility and pain in both domestic animals and humans. Orthopedic diseases in both populations share common pathophysiologies, most notably in the areas of fracture non-union, osteoarthritis and growth deformities. The Department of Veterinary Clinical Medicine is building considerable strength in comparative orthopedic biology. Research evaluates the pathophysiology of naturally occurring orthopedic diseases of domestic animals and seeks to develop therapeutic strategies of relevance both to these and human patients. Research projects span many areas, from rehabilitative studies to the novel science of stem cell regeneration of cartilage and bone. Strong collaboration among veterinary and engineering scientists in the growing Department of Bioengineering are consequent to this new interaction.
Building on an endowed chair in reproductive biology, the Department of Veterinary Biosciences has developed plans to establish a Center for Reproductive Steroid Research. In addition to reproductive biology, the interdisciplinary topics would include, but not be limited to, the general areas of steroid receptor biology and chemistry, cardiovascular health and disease, oncology, immunology, and aging. Specific areas of research that fit these broad categories and are now being actively conducted include estrogen effects on cancer of the breast and prostate, male and female contraception, cholesterol and atherosclerosis, obesity and lipids, ischemia/reperfusion injury, genetics of inflammation and the acute phase response, and the neurobiology of aging. This successful area of research emphasis involves approximately 20 faculty and impacts programs in the Departments of Molecular and Integrative Physiology, Cell and Structural Biology, Animal Sciences, Food Science and Human Nutrition, and the Center for Microscopic Imaging, as well as programs at the state, national, and international levels.
More than a third of the faculty members engaged in the Reproductive Biology Training Program at the University of Illinois are from our Department of Veterinary Biosciences, and one serves as associate director of the program.
The environmental toxicology program of the college provides leadership to the campus interdisciplinary environmental toxicology program. Goals of the program focus on understanding and addressing the effects of environmental contaminants and natural toxins on animal, human, and ecological health. Areas of emphasis in the group include developmental and reproductive toxicology in humans and domestic and wild animals. College faculty undertake research into the properties of nutritive as well as non-nutritive substances that can protect against the toxic properties of a host of chemicals. The college also is allied to the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center located in Urbana. In addition, the Department of Pathobiology’s graduate program in toxicologic pathology is linked with this training program and has significant funding.
An important cornerstone of the toxicology program is an NIH-sponsored Training Program in Endocrine, Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology housed inthe Department of Veterinary Biosciences, which also involves faculty from the Departments of Animal Sciences, Food Science and Human Nutrition, Physiology and Biophysics, and Molecular and Integrative Biology. Another important program, the Children’s Environmental Health Center also located in the Department of Veterinary Biosciences, received funding under a joint program of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the Environmental Protection Agency to study the effects of mercury and PCBs.