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Insight: Research Edition
ARBL Continues to Expand Boundaries
West of Fort Collins, at Colorado State University’s Foothills Research Campus, are a series of ordinary-looking buildings where some extraordinary things are happening. Using the latest technology has to offer, from cloning and cryopreservation to immunochemistry and immunology, the Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory (ARBL) is home to cutting-edge research programs that are leading to breakthroughs in human and animal reproductive health.
“Since the inception of the original Animal Reproduction Laboratory in 1972 (though the Bull Farm was established in 1941), the ARBL has contributed substantially to the advancement and understanding of reproductive health,” said Dr. Thomas Hansen, Director of ARBL and a Professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. “Our faculty, staff and students are devoted to finding solutions to important problems in animal reproduction and human health.”
Research programs within ARBL include hypothalamic-pituitary functions; ovarian function, gamete biology and embryology; uterine, placental and fetal physiology; assisted reproductive technologies; and reproductive toxicology and diseases. Faculty affiliated with ARBL come from the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and the College of Agricultural Sciences. Cross-departmental cooperation gives researchers a broader view and additional expertise from which to draw upon for research programs with a broader scope. Researchers also collaborate with colleagues from other academic and government institutions, including the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as private companies.
“Over the years, our faculty have been recognized for many firsts such as development of vaccines, contraceptives, reproductive hormones and antibodies, sexing sperm, test-tube fertilization to produce a live foal, and birth of a foal from frozen oocytes,” said Dr. Hansen. “While advancing reproductive science, we also are learning basic reproductive biology including why things work the way they do and, more importantly, understanding why sometimes things don’t work.”
Many of ARBL’s bovine assisted-reproductive technologies such as freezing and storing semen and embryo transfer have now been translated for use in horses. Also, the equine faculty has developed the technique of obtaining foals from mares that have recently died. Ovaries are sent to CSU, eggs are harvested and are either injected with sperm and transferred to recipient mares (ICSI) or are transferred to the fallopian tube for in vivo fertilization (GIFT). Researchers also are able to collect sperm from the epididymus of stallions that have recently passed away. In this case, sperm from the stallion is stored frozen until it is used in artificial insemination or it is injected into an egg from a donor mare, which is then transferred into the fallopian tube of a recipient mare. One of the first foals born using these technologies was for Cecilea Hylton. She was so excited about this foal that the Hylton Foundation provided ARBL more than $500,000 to support the research.
Enabling researchers in their reproductive studies at ARBL are specific facilities for cryopreservation of gametes and embryos, and cloning; DNA sequencing and characterization of genes; measurement of hormones, receptors and other compounds of biologic interest; transmission electron microscopy; isolation and culture of cells; immunology and immunochemistry; production of transgenic animals; analysis of semen, and embryo transfer. In addition to its research program, ARBL also is known worldwide for its short courses in animal reproduction and reproductive biology, and for its graduate and postdoctoral programs. Service units include the Reproductive Endocrinology Laboratory, Sperm Morphology Services, and Equine Reproductive Services.
In 1989, the Colorado Commission on Higher Education selected ARBL to be a state-supported Program of Excellence. The University named ARBL as one of 11 Programs of Research and Scholarly Excellence that same year. ARBL also has maintained a competitive National Institutes of Health Training Program in Mammalian Reproduction for post-doctoral fellows and PhD students. This federally funded program has continued for 30 consecutive years. The long-term objective of this program is to train young scientists in a broad approach to solving reproductive problems encompassing both molecular and organismic biology. Scientists trained in this manner will be able to use a broad array of approaches to address important basic and applied questions in modern reproductive biology.
For more information on the Animal Reproduction and Biotechnology Laboratory, visit their Web site at www.cvmbs.colostate.edu/bms/arbl.htm.