Fernanda Rosa will further her research through exploring ways to improve immune responses in cattle.
Fernanda Rosa, assistant professor of immunology at Texas Tech University's School of Veterinary Medicine in Amarillo, was awarded a $290,000 grant from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to explore how microRNAs may boost the immune system of neonatal calves.
“A newborn calf's immune system is typically very weak,” Rosa said. “This makes the majority of calves at risk to catch a disease early in life. If the calf's immune system gives way, then this means the rancher or cattle owner has a decision to make.”
MicroRNAs are found in a variety of biological sources, including bovine milk. MicroRNAs play a significant role in detecting and preventing disease. Rosa and her team are analyzing bovine milk for the presence of microRNAs involved in inflammation.
They will use those microRNAs to enrich colostrum offered to local dairy calves. These calves will be evaluated relative to a control group of calves that didn't receive microRNAs in colostrum.
“We have already seen a huge effect of microRNAS from bovine milk on the immune response in the lab, so it's promising,” Rosa said. “Finding out how to boost a calf's immune system and helping them fight off infections without the need of antibiotics will make a huge impact for dairy owners and cattle owners.”
Guy Loneragan, dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, said Rosa's work is groundbreaking.
“Her work on newborn calves will have lifetime benefits for cattle which will in turn help them be productive members of the herd for longer,” he said. “With the support of USDA NIFA, Dr. Rosa is performing transformative research right here at the School of Veterinary Medicine.”
Ulrich Bickel, associate professor at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center School of Pharmacy, has teamed up with Rosa as the co-investigator for this research project. Her team also includes One Health Ph.D. student Rafaela Santos, master's students Keerra Holzapfel and Sravani Gade, and veterinary student Audrey Brown.