Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Researchers Discover Eye Test for Neurological Diseases in Livestock

The eyes of sheep infected with scrapie – a neurological disorder similar to mad cow disease – return an intense, almost-white glow when they’re hit with blue excitation light, according to a research project led by Iowa State University’s Jacob Petrich.

The findings suggest technologies and techniques can be developed to quickly and noninvasively test for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, progressive and fatal neurological diseases such as mad cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. Petrich, in fact, is working to develop a testing device.

The findings were published earlier this year in the journal Analytical Chemistry. The project was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The research is the result of an accidental discovery while Petrich and his collaborators were developing a fluorescence spectroscopy device that’s now used in slaughterhouses to test livestock carcasses for feces and possible E. coli contamination.

“One day we were testing the apparatus by shining light on the carcass and we saw the spinal cord glow – it fluoresced,” said Petrich, professor and chair of Iowa State’s chemistry department. “We saw the spinal cord through the skin. The light was pretty intense. It was an amazing result.”

That sparked some new thinking: Maybe fluorescence technology could be used to test animals for transmissible spongiform encephalopathies such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy – what’s often called mad cow disease. To reduce the risk of human exposure to the diseases, the brains and spinal cords of animals are removed during slaughter and processing. But there is no quick test to identify animals with the diseases.

And so Petrich and a team of researchers began studying the feasibility of a fluorescence test. The team included Ramkrishna Adhikary, an Iowa State graduate student in chemistry; Prasun Mukherjee, a former Iowa State graduate student and current post-doctoral associate in chemistry at the University of Pittsburgh; Govindarajan Krishnamoorthy, a former Iowa State post-doctoral research associate and current assistant professor of chemistry at the Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati; Robert Kunkle of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Animal Disease Center in Ames; Thomas Casey of the National Animal Disease Center; and Mark Rasmussen of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine in Laurel, Md.

The researchers collected 140 eyeballs from 73 sheep. Thirty five of those sheep were infected with scrapie; 38 were not. The researchers took fluorescence readings from various parts of the eyes of all the sheep.

“The bottom line is the scrapie-positive retinas fluoresced like crazy,” Petrich said. “And the scrapie-negative ones did not.”

A previous study published in the journal Veterinary Pathology reported that the function and structure of retinas are altered in cattle infected with transmissible mink encephalopathy. Members of that study team included Iowa State researchers M. Heather West Greenlee, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the College of Veterinary Medicine; Justin Greenlee, a collaborator assistant professor of biomedical sciences; and Juergen Richt, a collaborator associate professor of veterinary microbiology and preventive medicine.

Other studies have reported that lipofuscin, an intracellular fluorescent pigment, accumulates in the eyes of animals infected with the neurological diseases. Petrich and his team attribute the glow from scrapie-positive retinas to the elevated levels of lipofuscin.

Whatever the cause, Petrich said it’s clear there are distinct differences in the fluorescence and spectroscopic signatures of retinas from sheep that were naturally infected with scrapie and those that were not. And so he and his research team think there’s great promise for a diagnostic test based on that discovery.

That has Petrich starting to develop a device (he likes to call it a “gizmo”) that could be used in meat plants to test the retinas of animals for signs of neurological diseases. He expects it will take several years to develop, build and test a useful device.

“What I like about this is it’s really simple,” Petrich said. “It’s light in and light out.”

Jacob Petrich, Chemistry, 515-294-9422,
Mike Krapfl, News Service, 515-294-4917,

Mike Krapfl | Newswise Science News
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders
24.10.2016 | Baylor College of Medicine

nachricht New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground
24.10.2016 | DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

New method increases energy density in lithium batteries

24.10.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering

International team discovers novel Alzheimer's disease risk gene among Icelanders

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

New bacteria groups, and stunning diversity, discovered underground

24.10.2016 | Life Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>