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This section provides brief, general-audience summaries of recent research conducted in the laboratory.
Donkey Milk:
Potential Solution for Milk Allergy
Research initiated in 2007 in collaboration with Dr. Piccione's team at the University of Messina (Italy) is pertinent to the issue of milk allergy in human infants.

Dairy products have been a part of human diet for more than 7,000 years, but 2 to 8% of infants exhibit an immunological reaction to cow milk proteins. In the United States, 34% of mothers do not breast feed their infants, and alternatives to cow milk are needed if their infants develop cow milk allergy.

Other research teams in Italy had previously discovered that asinine milk (milk from donkey mares) resembles human milk better than bovine milk (milk from cattle cows) does. In our research, we have investigated daily rhythmicity of nutrient composition of milk from donkey mares.

We observed no daily rhythmicity in somatic cell count and pH but observed robust rhythmicity in lipid, lactose, and protein content. The graph on the right exemplifies data that we have obtained. Results for protein content are shown. Protein content was clearly rhythmic, peaking in the middle of the light phase of the light-dark cycle.
Figure: Daily rhythm of protein content in asinine milk. The animals were milked only once a day (at a different time of day each day, for 9 days) many hours after separation from their foals. The milk was analyzed in the laboratory. Each circle corresponds to the mean of 5 animals. Error bars denote standard errors of the means. The horizontal bars at the top indicate the duration of the light and dark phases of the prevailing light-dark cycle.  Figure caption
Ragusano donkey
  A Ragusano donkey (Equus asinus)

Study of Squirrel Hibernation
in the Field and Lab
Research in collaboration with Mutlu Kart Gür from Hacettepe University (Turkey) in 2007 and 2008 involved the analysis of rhythmicity of body temperature in Anatolian (a.k.a. "Asia Minor") ground squirrels.

Because most previous studies dealing with close analysis of hibernation were conducted under laboratory or semi-natural conditions, we felt that it would be important to conduct a study involving observations in laboratory as well as natural conditions. In both conditions, body temperature was recorded with surgically-implanted temperature loggers. The use of the Anatolian ground squirrel was important as a new hibernator species that has not been previously studied in detail.

Both in the field and in the laboratory, robust daily rhythmicity of body temperature (with parameters comparable to those of other squirrel species) was observed before and after, but not during, hibernation. In the field as well as in the laboratory, the hibernation season lasted slightly over 6 months and was characterized by various torpor bouts interrupted by brief periods of euthermia (see figure on the right).

The major difference between the field and laboratory patterns lay in the progression of bout duration: whereas bout duration in the laboratory gradually lengthened and later gradually shortened, bout duration in the field progressively lengthened throughout the hibernation season and shortened only shortly before the final arousal. Entry into torpor bouts was slightly but significantly concentrated in the early afternoon, whereas arousal from torpor bouts was not concentrated at any given time of day.
Ground squirrel
  An Anatolian ground squirrel (Spermophilus xanthoprymnus)

Figure caption   Figure: Body temperature records of two squirrels during a hibernation season. A: adult female living in the field. B: adult female living in the laboratory. Dashed red (or green) lines denote ambient temperature.
The material posted on this web site is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. Opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of either agency.

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