Surprise party for world-renowned anatomist Dr. Howie Evans’ 90th

Happy 90th Birthday to Dr. Howie Evans, anatomist extraordinaire and beloved professor of countless Cornell veterinarians! Dr. Evans continues coming to work even today, updating his seminal text on dog anatomy and collecting goodies for volunteer visits to local schoolchildren.

He continually inspires people of all ages with show-and-tell wonders from across the animal kingdom. We held a surprise birthday party for Howie, shown in this video. You can post your own birthday wishes on the video on our Facebook Page.

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/EvansBirthday.cfm

The call of the wild

There’s something enthralling in the eyes of a raptor, a primal intensity that instills respect and makes it hard to look away. Such a spell sparked a similar spirit in Sarah Cudney ’16 when she first encountered raptors at Cornell as a high-school summer student, an experience that imbued her with a keen vigor for veterinary medicine.

Eurasian Eagle Owl, BuboThe wild was never far for Cudney, who grew up in Boulder, Col. in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, but it suddenly came closer when she started handling raptors in Cornell’s three-week pre-veterinary high-school summer program in Exotic Avian Husbandry.
“I had such an amazing experience working with the birds that I was determined to come back to Cornell,” said Cudney. “That summer course made me decide to apply here.”

As a newly minted Cornell undergraduate studying animal science and biology, one of the first things Cudney did was return to the raptors. She joined the Cornell Raptor Program, getting directly involved with raptor conservation through formal classroom instruction on biology and natural history of birds of prey, captive propagation and release of selected species, rehabilitation of sick and injured raptors, and public education programs.

Rising through the volunteer ranks, Cudney became both Director of Education and Student Supervisor, organizing and presenting outreach events in Ithaca and the surrounding area and training new student volunteers. She even adopted the daily responsibility of hand-feeding and caring for an American Kestrel and a Eurasian Eagle Owl, one of the world’s largest owls. Hooked on wildlife, she also volunteered as a wildlife supervisor at the Swanson Wildlife Health Center, assisting veterinarians in examination, radiology, medication, treatment, and care of local sick and injured wildlife.

“Working with wildlife made me realize I wanted to go into wildlife medicine,” said Cudney. “I don’t know if I’d have even applied to vet school if not for the Raptor Program and the Wildlife Health Center.”

She became president of Cornell’s Pre-Veterinary Society, arranging speakers, meetings, fundraisers, field trips, and volunteer work for the group, as well as mentoring undergraduate peers throughout their own veterinary school preparation. Cudney also came up campus to the College frequently to conduct research in Dr. Ned Place’s endocrinology lab. This led to two manuscripts, including her honors thesis describing a model of how seasons cause shifts in metabolic signals to the brain that can influence obesity, which has been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

Cudney graduated with highest honors, a slew of awards, research publications, a strong network of supporters built through her activities, and varied hands-on animal experience: all the right ingredients for a strong veterinary school application.

“I chose Cornell for the next step too, partly because of the people and places I’d established good relationships with,” said Cudney. “But a big part of it was the opportunities Cornell gives to work with wildlife and conservation. It’s one of the few schools with a wildlife center on campus. I love working with all kinds of animals but for me there’s something special about wildlife.”

Coming full circle, Cudney served this year as a teaching assistant for the high-school Summer course in exotic avian husbandry that first brought her here. She begins veterinary school this fall and hopes to pursue wildlife and conservation medicine.

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Editor’s Note: Cornell’s veterinary Class of 2016 is 102 students strong. Equally as diverse in backgrounds and interests as those who came before them, they are also among the brightest, with this year’s Class boasting a median GPA of 3.75 and the highest median GRE score to date.

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/cudney.cfm

 

 

Twin scholarships support future equine veterinarians

Two aspiring equine veterinarians at Cornell will soon start horse-healing careers
with less student debt, thanks to twin scholarship gifts. The Thoroughbred Charities of America (TCA) Endowment Board recently awarded two fourth-year students at the College of Veterinary Medicine $6,000 each to help offset the costs of education and ease their transition into equine practice.

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TCA’s Endowment Board supports and promotes equine education and research by sponsoring scholarships in veterinary medicine and supporting organizations that are educating the public in the proper care of horses.

“We first started and continue a student scholarship program at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine and wanted to expand the program to other schools. Cornell was chosen for too many reasons to mention,” said Dr. James Orsini ’77, Associate Professor of Surgery and director of the Laminitis Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, who co-chairs TCA’s endowment with Herb Moelis. “The scholarship program is an important component of our mission. Our goal is to support as many worthy students as possible at veterinary colleges across the United States and we hope to continue to do more.”

Susan Shaffer ’13 and Kaitlin Quirk ’13 were selected by the Board to receive the award because of their outstanding academic success and strong interest in equine medicine. Born in Texas, Shaffer is an enthusiastic equestrienne planning to pursue equine practice. She gives regular tours for prospective students and has taken her interests abroad in various international service learning projects. Quirk grew up in Albany, N.Y. and studied animal science as an undergraduate at Cornell. An avid rider planning to pursue equine medicine, she is also interested in applying her veterinary training to international medicine and public health.

“We seek to support the best and brightest veterinary students with a financial need and who plan to work in equine practice, academic medicine, and related equine fields,” said Orsini. “We want the next generation of equine veterinarians to be superbly trained and educated. We hope this scholarship will lighten the financial burden for these students’ veterinary education so they can focus their passion on their careers helping horses.”

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/orsini.cfm

Surprise packages sent by cancer cells can turn normal cells cancerous

Surprise packages sent by cancer cells can turn normal cells cancerous, but Cornell scientists have found a way to keep their cargo from ever leaving port. Published in Oncogene in January 2012, their study demonstrates the parcels’ cancer-causing powers, describes how they are made, and reveals a way to jam production. Treatments that follow suit could slow tumor growth and metastasis, the spread of cancer to new parts of the body.

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A cancer cell (bottom right) producing and shedding microvesicles, which travel between cells and attach to a normal cell (upper left) to unload cancerous cargo

Remote recruiting through inter-cellular mail lets cancer cells grow their ranks without having to move. While most cells communicate through a standard postal system of growth factors and hormones, cancer cells and stem cells use bulkier parcels called microvesicles. These big packages are stuffed with unconventional cargo that boosts the survival and growth rates of recipient cells and can dramatically alter their behavior and surrounding environment. The cargo of microvesicles includes unique sets of proteins that often reflect their cell of origin and are capable of completely changing a cell’s form and function.

“Stem cells make microvesicles containing one set of proteins that can help heal damaged tissue, while cancer cells make malignant microvesicles called oncosomes that contain another set of proteins which facilitate the growth and spread of tumors,” said Dr. Richard Cerione, professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine and co-author.

Dr. Marc Antonyak and graduate student Bo Li, co-authors and researchers in Cerione’s lab, examined cells in culture to observe the effects of oncosomes on normal cells. They focused on fibroblasts, a normal cell type that is often found associated with human tumors and helps to facilitate tumor growth.
“We incubated healthy fibroblasts together with aggressive breast cancer cells,” said Antonyak. “Although we’d disabled the cancer cells from forming tumors on their own, they kept pumping out oncosomes. The fibroblasts that were bathed in these oncosomes began turning cancer-like, living longer, growing faster, and forming tumors.”

Using a variety of techniques to parse out participating proteins, including immunoblot analysis, immunofluorecence, and electron microscopy imaging, Antonyak identified each link in this pathway and traced it back to the first: a protein called RhoA that acts like a lever initiating microvesicle production. Cancer cells crank production into overdrive, said Antonyak, but jamming the lever could stop the whole assembly line.

“Even if we immobilize cancer cells, as long as they can make these microvesicles they can continue spreading vital components for the development of cancer,” said Cerione. “It’s clear that microvesicles can change the behavior of cells and play an important part in cancer progression. Treatments targeting the microvesicle production pathway we’ve outlined could have a real impact on slowing cancer progression.”

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http://vet.cornell.edu/news/CancerCargo.cfm

 

First total knee-replacement surgery restores young dog’s active life at Cornell

jake-copy_000James Gillette has two passions: hunting and his dog. In an effort to spend time with both, he has dedicated years to training Jake, his chocolate lab, how to retrieve game. Often described as inseparable, Gillette and Jake were just as likely to be wandering through wetlands as they were to be at home until travesty hit both.

In the summer of 2010, Gillette fell so ill that when Jake ran in front of a truck and fractured his knee, it was several weeks before Gillette was well enough to get Jake to a veterinarian. When Jake later arrived at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals (CUHA), he was unable to put any weight on the leg and it looked like it might have to be amputated.
In a first-ever surgery at Cornell, Assistant Professor of Surgery Dr. Ursula Krotscheck and an orthopedic surgeon from Ohio State University led a team of CUHA residents in a total knee replacement surgery, a relatively novel procedure never before performed at Cornell. The surgery team removed pieces of bone around Jake’s knee and constructed components to recreate the joint, giving Jake a second chance at an active life.

jakedog055-copySoon after the surgery in Spring 2011, Jake walked home by Gillette’s side using all four legs.

“Jake has recovered extremely well from what in most cases would have been a crippling injury,” said Krotscheck. “We are one of only five teaching hospitals that have performed this procedure. Our team and Jake’s resilience all contributed to making our first canine knee replacement a success.”

Now a year post-surgery, Jake recently passed his first anniversary check-up with flying colors.

“Look at him run!” said Gillette as he tossed Jake’s favorite toy, spurring the eager retriever into a full sprint. “He’s happy as ever and his leg is like new. Before the surgery he wasn’t using it at all. Now we’re playing and hunting together again.”

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College of Veterinary Medicine News
http://vet.cornell.edu/news/Jake.cfm

Ticks untold

Prime suspects in mystery fevers may hold new tick-borne diseases
Suddenly your horse is sick and you don’t know why. She breathes normally but her temperature is rising, her eyes grow yellow with jaundice, she seems depressed, and barely eats. The fever is clear but the cause is not; even the most experienced experts can offer no concrete answers. Eventually the fever fades, but is that the end of whatever caused it or is the source still lurking somewhere inside?

Horse owners across the states are facing this distressing scenario. At the Cornell University Animal Health Diagnostic Center (AHDC), Dr. Linda Mittel fields a growing number of calls about these mysterious fevers of unknown origins (FUOs). Many come from the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Great Lakes areas: the nation’s topmost hotbeds of human tick-borne disease. This pattern led Mittel to suspect that the culprits of the fever caper could be ticks and the difficult-to-diagnose diseases they carry.

“Tick-borne diseases are some of the fastest growing emerging diseases in the United States right now,” said Mittel. “As ticks continue expanding their numbers and geographic range these diseases may affect new areas. We get calls about fevers at broodmare operations, showbarns, and farms where race horses rest or layup, even in areas where they didn’t know they had ticks. But horses moving between states can move ticks with them, and the effects of this movement are starting to show.”

Mittel and colleagues at the AHDC are embarking on a project to find just what diseases ticks in hotbed zones are carrying and whether they are behind the wash of mystery fevers in horses. The study will use samples from horses suffering FUOs to look for bacterial infections known to be transmitted by ticks (Anaplasma, Babesia, Borrelia, Ehrlichia, and Rickettsia) as well as other bacteria known to cause non-respiratory infection in horses (Leptospira, Bartonella, and Neorickettsia.)

These agents are considered emerging infectious diseases in humans, and this will be the first study determining their presence in horses with FUOs. The study will also sample ticks found on or near horses in designated areas to find which pathogens they carry and to potentially discover previously undocumented tick-borne pathogens.

Many tick-borne diseases are sensitive to specific drugs; others are not sensitive to antibiotics at all. Knowing which diseases are at the root of FUOs will help veterinarians treat them effectively. It will also help owners understand how the causes of fevers might impact affected horses’ futures in racing, performance, or showmanship.

“I’m quite excited to start solving the mysteries of these fevers and to possibly uncover new previously unrecognized diseases – in horses and people,” said Mittel. “If these agents are in the horses, humans may also have them without realizing– people who work with these horses might be particularly at risk. Knowing what we’re dealing with here will hopefully solve the mystery of FUOs and help equine and human medicine recognize and address the growing onslaught of tick-borne disease.”

This research is funded by the Harry M. Zweig Memorial Fund for Equine Research.

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Dr. Cynthia Leifer honored with 2012 Pfizer Animal Health Award

LeiferDr. Cynthia Leifer, assistant professor of immunology at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, has been selected to receive the Pfizer Animal Health Award for Veterinary Research Excellence. The award fosters innovative research by recognizing outstanding research and productivity from a faculty member early in his or her career. Nominees are selected for innovative research relevant to animal health that is likely to make national impact.

Leifer’s research sheds light on the currently cloudy causes of autoimmune disease by uncovering inner workings of the innate immune system. Afflicting one in five Americans, autoimmune diseases include a wide array of disorders from rheumatoid arthritis to the skin disease Lupus to irritable bowel syndrome.

“The immune system fights to protect us against invading microorganisms,” said Leifer. “But it must also recognize what to attack and keep its aggressive responses under control to prevent damaging our own bodies.”

When recognition and regulation fail, the immune system can attack the body and lead to autoimmune disorders. Leifer explores how immune cell receptors affect the way these cells recognize and respond to whatever they encounter, whether it’s a microbial invader or a piece of the self.

“Most innate immune receptors identify microbes by detecting unique structures found only on microbes,” said Leifer. “But some work by detecting structures present in both microbes and the self, such as DNA.”

Focusing her research on one such receptor, Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9), Leifer recently discovered how TLR9 makes the kind of recognition mistakes that lead to autoimmune attacks, opening the door to new possible autoimmune disease therapies.

“Identifying immune-cell regulation systems may reveal therapeutic targets for managing TLR9 function, leading to new treatments for autoimmune diseases,” said Leifer.

Leifer will present her research at a special seminar to be held in September 2012. At a ceremony that follows she will receive an award of $1,000 and an engraved plaque.

“This is a great honor for Dr. Leifer at this stage of her career,” said Dr. Avery August, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology. “Her cutting-edge work on how the immune system senses pathogens is being recognized, and she will join a distinguished list of Cornell faculty who have received this award. We congratulate her on this great accomplishment.”

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College of Veterinary Medicine News
http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/LeiferPfizer.cfm

 

Conservation in action

First Indonesian to receive major fellowship will help save world’s rarest rhinoceroses

Deep in the Indonesian rainforest on the island of Java roam the last of earth’s most critically endangered large mammal species: the Javan rhinoceros. Once Asia’s most widespread rhinoceroses, these secretive forest-dwellers disappeared altogether from the continent’s mainland in October 2011, when the last individual was found dead in Vietnam with its horn chopped off by poachers. A single population of just 40 rhinoceroses survives in the western half of Java’s Ujung Kulon National Park, cramped into a corner of the island that has reached its carrying capacity.

The Indonesian government recently endorsed a daring plan to expand the range of their emblem species by establishing a second population with more room to grow. Yet a major concern remains. The plan involves moving some rhinoceroses from the isolated westernmost tip of Java to the eastern side of the park—an area surrounded by 19 agricultural villages whose inhabitants rely on water buffalo to work their rice paddies. No fences limit the wanderings of these loosely managed buffalo, which regularly pass into the park and could spread diseases that would quickly decimate the rhino’s population.

Cornell postdoc Dr. Kurnia Khairani has received a Fellowship Training Grant from the Morris Animal Foundation to address this problem. With the help of faculty and students at the College of Veterinary Medicine, Khairani is combining fieldwork in Indonesia with labwork and training at Cornell to improve the health and outlook of Javan rhinoceroses. It is the first time an Indonesian has received this prestigious award, and the first time a Cornell fellow will be trained in conservation medicine.

“Of the five rhinoceros species the Javan is the rarest, and Khairani’s work is critical to its future,” said Dr. Robin Radcliffe, director of the Cornell Conservation Medicine Program, one of the world’s foremost experts working in rhino conservation. Radcliffe oversees the project and is excited by its possibilities. “Khairani herself is a major investment for conservation efforts in this region: she will take her Cornell training back to Indonesia and become a decision-maker in her own country. Cornell is involved in real-world conservation, training people who will use what they learn here to tackle new problems in the race to preserve biodiversity.”

A postdoc in the laboratory of immunologist Dr. Julia Fellipe, Khairani will work under the joint mentorship of Fellipe and Radcliffe. Additional mentorship from epidemiologist Dr. Daryl Nydam and microbiologist Dr. Pat McDonough will round out Khairani’s skills.

Conducting a preliminary health survey of village buffalo, Khairani found several diseases of concern to rhinoceroses, including blood parasites, salmonellosis, and leptospirosis. With highly infectious diseases such as SARS, West Nile Virus, and Avian Influenza making worldwide headlines for crossing species barriers and ecosystems, it is critical to get this historic move of the rarest rhinoceros right the first time. Khairani’s ongoing survey will focus on hemorrhagic septicemia, a bacterial disease linked to four recorded die-offs of Javan rhinoceroses in the region. Khairani will determine the prevalence, distribution, and risk of contracting septicemia faced by the buffalo population; conduct questionnaire-based interviews with buffalo owners to determine management factors that might contribute to the regional epidemiology of the disease; and propose possible interventions.

The project also involves outreach, educating local public health officers and villagers on septicemia diagnosis and management through hands-on training. It has also opened doors for Cornell veterinary students to gain valuable hands-on international experience, and several have already conducted internships in Indonesia with Khairani through Cornell’s Conservation Medicine Program with funding by Expanding Horizons.


“Knowledge of the region’s diseases will help veterinary officers improve the health of buffalo, a resource crucial to the region’s economic vitality,” said Khairani. “Healthier buffalo will enhance the well-being of local villagers while reducing their impact on the park. Improving our understanding of animal health in the area will help reduce the risk of disease transmission from livestock to rhinoceroses. This is essential to establishing a second habitat and population of the rare Javan rhinoceros, a crown jewel of Indonesia’s amazing biodiversity.”

‘Scopes Magazine
February 2012

Cornell China Dairy Institute teaches second crop of food-animal veterinarians from across China

For four weeks this past fall over two dozen dairy veterinarians converged on a private farm in Sanhe City, 37 miles east of Beijing. Here in China’s Heibei province, the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine has partnered with Huaxia Dairy as well as local Chinese educational, government, and agricultural institutions to lead an international collaboration that is benefiting animal health and food safety in China and beyond.

Cornell China Dairy Institute has provided hands-on continuing education to approximately 70 Chinese veterinarians and veterinary technicians since its launch in September 2010. During the four-week program, participants from across China attend morning lectures at Sanhe City Vocational Education College followed by afternoon hands-on training at the Huaxia Dairy farm taught by Cornell veterinarians, veterinary students, and lab technicians.

Revenue from the program goes to support the College’s local dairy programs in New York State, including food-animal externships and the highly successful Summer Dairy Institute on which the China program is based.

“This is one of the few international veterinary education programs to offer live hands-on veterinary training as well as lecture-based instruction,” said Dr. Lorin Warnick, associate dean for veterinary education at Cornell. “As agriculture and associated economies become increasingly globalized, the US has a growing interest in international disease management, food safety, and public health. The goals of the program are to advance clinical skills of veterinary staff and improve cattle care and welfare on Chinese dairy farms.  Our faculty and students benefit from seeing the dairy industry firsthand in the world’s most populous country and one in which agricultural practices are changing rapidly.”

Tailored to meet the current needs of the veterinary community in China, content integrates topics such as how to care for sick or injured cows, calf health and heifer-raising, dairy reproduction, and techniques for ensuring high quality milk production.

“The China dairy program is part of the College’s global efforts and will help to transform animal health training in this region of the world,” said Dean Michael Kotlikoff. “The global community is connected in ways that are critical to the health and well-being of animals, people, and the environment everywhere. Cornell is positioned well to help influence the direction veterinary medicine takes, in the United States and around the world.”

The timing is right for this type of initiative, according to Charles Shao, CEO of Huaxia Dairy Farm, who explained that China’s dairy industry is presently in a growth phase.

“There is an intense desire to improve efficiency and production in China and to be able to support increased consumer demand for high quality milk and dairy products,” said Shao. “This collaboration has the potential to have a strong impact on the delivery of veterinary services to dairy farms in China.”

The program also supports goals outlined in the College’s strategic plan, including finding opportunities to influence the standards for veterinary practice followed around the world and providing teaching opportunities for Cornell veterinary students who may be interested in a career in academia.

Josh Boyden ’12 spent two weeks in China as a teaching assistant in October 2011.

“While faculty lectured in the mornings, employees would present us with cases and questions on the farm that demanded immediate attention,” said Boyden, who plans to go into large-animal practice in the Northeast after graduation. “The chance to interact with enthusiastic employees and promote good on-farm practices helped reinforce the importance of basics and offered great perspective and personal satisfaction.”

This year’s teaching team also included teaching assistant Karen James ’12; PhD student Dr. Soon Hon Cheong; alum Dr. Mark Thomas ’97; and Drs. Lorin Warnick, Charles Guard, Daryl Nydam, Robert Gilbert, Rodrigo Bicalho, Gary Bennett, and Michael Zurakowski.

“As the program grows, so do the College’s opportunities for international engagement,” said Warnick. “Most participants are dairy farm staff, but we have also begun to see graduate students attending from the Chinese Agriculture University in Beijing. Feedback has been very positive about the value of the course material.”

Support for the Cornell China Dairy Institute comes from student tuition, Huaxia Dairy, Pfizer Animal Health, the U.S. Grains Council, Alta Genetics, Land O’ Lakes, Sanhe City Vocational Education College, and the Sanhe City government.

‘Scopes Magazine
February 2012

Show highlights farm animal veterinary medicine

Peter Ostrum ’84 highlighted in new online show documenting work of farm animal veterinarians

Modern American livestock farmers face two emerging challenges: an increasing shortage of large-animal veterinarians, and dimming public understanding of what happens with food before it hits the fork. A new reality documentary series called Veterinarians on Call seeks to bridge these gaps by offering online viewers a candid look into the work of real livestock veterinarians, raising awareness of the care that goes into responsible livestock farming in the US.

Ostrum

As part of its efforts to support the veterinary and animal health industry, pharmaceutical company Pfizer funded the show’s production. Currently seven short ‘webisodes’ are available through the show’s Youtube Channel. Each episode follows one of several livestock veterinarians selected from various states and specialties who have volunteered to be filmed in their day-to-day work behind the scenes caring for food-production animals.

Cattle veterinarian Dr. Peter Ostrum ’84 features prominently in the series. Ostrum had an early start onstage playing the role of Charlie in the classic film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971). Preferring farms to fame, he left acting to earn his DVM from Cornell and now works at a mixed animal practice in upstate New York, which he co-owns with three other Cornell alumni.

Ostrum

“I got a call from a friend and fellow alum, Dr. Roger Saltman ’81, who works at Pfizer, and asked me if I’d be willing to participate,” said Ostrum. “The crew shadowed me throughout my normal workday and during emergency calls on dairy farms. When we discussed cases on camera I tried to explain what I’m doing for someone who’d never been on a farm.”

The show highlights how veterinary care plays into the key concepts of animal welfare and food safety, and reveals aspects of the job Ostrum says people wouldn’t normally think of.

Ostrum

“This job is not just treating sick cows. A lot of it is education; we spend a lot of time with people, training the farm workers who work with these animals every day and are usually the ones making decisions about treatment,” said Ostrum.
“Growing up, most of my peers were raised on farms. Now that more people live in cities and suburbs, fewer and fewer people understand what agriculture involves. I’m doing this to encourage aspiring veterinarians to consider large animal medicine, and also to try to help people reconnect with their food sources and shed some light on what’s going on in the farming sector.”

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http://www.vet.cornell.edu/news/vetsoncall_Ostrum.cfm