SUBSCRIBE

Breaking News on Supplements & Nutrition - EuropeUS edition

Headlines > Research

Mead Johnson awards $1m to further study of piglet brain development

Mead Johnson Nutrition has awarded the University of Illinois' Department of Animal Sciences a grant of nearly $1m to further its understanding of how nutrition affects brain development in piglets.

The $945,000 (€694,000) grant, awarded to the Department of Animal Sciences’ assistant professor of nutrition, Ryan Dilger, will “increase the capability for research regarding learning and memory in young pigs with the goal of understanding how nutrition affects brain development in human infants," the faculty said in a statement.

Illinois-based Mead Johnson Nutrition, which manufactures Enfamil brand infant formula, chose to award funding to the Department of Animal Sciences because of its “unique combination of state-of-the-art neuroscience technology and long-standing history of dedication to pediatric nutrition research.”

For several years, young pigs have been used by Dilger and his University of Illinois colleagues as biomedical research subjects to study human brain development.

The Department of Animal Sciences currently has space to raise and monitor 24 pigs at a time. The grant will be used to double this figure and provide Dilger and his team “greater control over nutrient delivery and video monitoring of piglet behaviour.”

“Basically, this gift is to develop new research infrastructure and increase our capabilities in testing how much nutrition affects brain development,” said Dilger.

“In the past, we have looked at such things as iron deficiency and its effects on learning and memory, and this gift will allow us to develop next-generation tools to test how early life nutrition relates to brain function in an animal model that closely approximates developmental processes in humans,” he added.

"Spearhead project"

The “spearhead project” in the new Mead Johnson-funded unit will test learning and memory through eye-blink conditioning studies during which piglets will learn to associate a noise with a gentle puff of air blown into their eyes. 

This, the University claims, will allow researchers to determine how dietary and environmental factors affect learning and memory.

“Here we ask, what is the optimal behavioural performance, in this case learning and memory, and is that function amenable to nutritional intervention? Then we can use cellular and molecular techniques to determine exactly how the relationship between nutrition and brain function works," Dilger continued.

“Nutrition has come a long way. We’ve basically identified all the nutrients and what happens in growth and metabolism if we have a deficiency. However, we understand less about whether improper nutrition causes long-term effects on the brain, and this is a serious problem globally as far as the effects micronutrient deficiencies have on short-term and long-term memory. Thus, we’re interested in studying nutrition during the late prenatal and early postnatal periods, and what effects this has on long-term cognitive development.”

The University of Illinois expects the new Mead Johnson-funded unit to be up and running in early 2015.

Subscribe to our FREE newsletter

Get FREE access to authoritative breaking news, videos, podcasts, webinars and white papers. SUBSCRIBE

Post a comment

Comment title *
Your comment *
Your name *
Your email *

We will not publish your email on the site

I agree to Terms and Conditions

These comments have not been moderated. You are encouraged to participate with comments that are relevant to our news stories. You should not post comments that are abusive, threatening, defamatory, misleading or invasive of privacy. For the full terms and conditions for commenting see clause 7 of our Terms and Conditions ‘Participating in Online Communities’. These terms may be updated from time to time, so please read them before posting a comment. Any comment that violates these terms may be removed in its entirety as we do not edit comments. If you wish to complain about a comment please use the "REPORT ABUSE" button or contact the editors.

Related products

Key Industry Events