Skip to main content

Joint Doctorate in Molecular Animal Nutrition

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MANNA (Joint Doctorate in Molecular Animal Nutrition)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2020-05-31

The EU livestock sector contributes substantially to the EU community, creating employment for almost 30 million people, supporting the livelihoods in rural areas and playing an essential role in realising global food and nutrition security. Research in animal science and nutrition contributing to address these topics is thus expected and welcomed at both EU and international levels. The sustainability of livestock production, animal health, feed and food safety are topics that EU has identified as priorities.

To improve the efficiency of livestock production, contributing concomitantly to animal health. MANNA addresses the issue of the continued increase in animal protein consumption by consumers in Europe and across the globe. To supply more livestock products, it is imperative to reach higher productivity by improving feed efficiency, and reducing the loss in efficiency caused by diseases. This approach can have positive effects on the environment and animal welfare. The total financial value of the EU livestock sector in 2014 was 167.9 billion Euro, the most significant input into livestock production being animal feed, valued at 98.6 billion Euro
For livestock farming to remain sustainable any increases in production needs to be balanced by increases in productivity, and feed and nutrition is an area where significant gains may be made.

1- To provide a European Double Degree Doctorate level training programme on innovative technologies applied to animal science and nutrition
2- To prepare research leaders with the capability to address present and future needs of industry and academia in the complex field of animal science
3- To determine the impact of innovative feeding strategies and bioactive feed additives in chicken, pigs and dairy cows on innate immunity, growth performance, metabolic regulation, milk production and fertility
4- To investigate the changes induced by anti-oxidants, fatty acids or single amino acids on metabolism, gut health and function, and explore the interrelationship with performance
5- To define the value of natural anti-microbials to strengthen innate immunity and reduce the load of antibiotics
6- To develop and implement in vitro models for animal nutrition
7- To explore the impact of milk exosomes and microRNA in animal nutrition and immunity
8- To develop a bioinformatic platform integrating information generated throughout the project.
The MANNA project has been moving effectively towards its goals in its scientific and training objectives for the 11 early stage researchers who are registered for dual degrees at the participating universities.. This has been achieved despite the complications caused by the Covid-19 lockdown requirements that have been imposed over the last 6 months.

The studies of ESR1 in Milan has progressed in assessing the effects of -6: 3 fatty acid ratios in the diet of sows and the supplementation of piglet diet with seaweed, on growth and health parameters. Samples have been transferred to Glasgow where proteomic analysis is in prospect. The in vitro studies of ESR2 have been developed in Milan based on cells from pigs, cows and chicken and proteomics and genomic studies are to be initiated in Barcelona and with INRA, a non-academic partner. Studies on chicken responses to bacterial endotoxin and effects of potential probiotics in Glasgow have been completed by ESR3 with ensuing metabolomics and proteomic investigation of samples being undertaken in Glasgow and Zagreb respectively. In a complementary in vivo study in chicken in Glasgow, ESR4 has used heavy isotopes in feed to assess protein synthesis rates during responses to endotoxin and probiotics and has been developing the processes required for examination of synthesis of individual proteins in Košice. After utilizing machine learning in Bonn to evaluate the selection process of serum samples from dairy cows pre and post parturition, ESR5 has undertaken metabolomic analysis in Glasgow that will be combined with analytes such as leptin and OH-butyrate to contrast high and low body condition loss. Working between Zagreb and Bonn ESR6 has developed methodology for isolation of exosomes from sow milk that was collected during the pig trials of ESR1. The samples are being processed for proteomics, metabolomics and lipidomics to allow a deep assessment of changes induced by alteration of the 6:3 fatty acid ratios in feed. ESR7 has been utilizing faecal samples from the pigs in the trials of ESR1 with development of a process to study the microbiota of the samples in Barcelona and has been preparing to analyses the metabolome of the samples in Glasgow. In Barcelona ESR8 has examined porcine muscle with extreme values for ω-6: ω-3 fatty acid (FA) ratio by sequence analysis of RNA with 432 genes shown to be differentially expressed. Extending these studies in Milan will apply the developed methodology to muscle from a further trial of ω-6:ω-3 FA ratio in the feed of pigs. Studies by ESR9 has led in Milan to the first peer reviewed publication of MANNA, in assessing the effects of ω -3 fatty acids on cell based in vitro assays and examination of the gene involved using transcriptomics is underway in Košice. With samples collected while in Bonn from dairy cows fed with different types of essential fatty acid, ESR10 has undertaken proteomics in INRA, a non-academic partner, while also extracting micro RNA for further analysis in Milan. In Košice, ESR11 has established a web interface, called OMnalysis that can be used by all other ESRs as well as researchers from outside the project for integration of data from their studies and has prepared a move to Barcelona where the use of the interface can be further assessed.
The ESRs have all been fulfilling all requirements for training both in research related aspects in the advanced technology involved in the research projects and also in generic aspects for career development. MANNA project training has been delivered in the Core Course (Glasgow 2018) and the Summer School (Milan 2019) and has been enhanced by an online course in proteomics with particular emphasis on its use in animal sciences. Each university has also provided training in courses covering topics such as statistics, writing papers, and preparation of thesis. Public engagement has been encouraged with full involvement of ESRs in preparation of Newsletters, Brochures, and Webpages which has been run in collaboration with SPRIM, the scientific communication company who are a non-academic partner.

The MANNA project has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic which has impacted the ESRs in different ways depending on their location at the start of the lockdowns in different countries. Regular virtual meetings have been held via Zoom video to ensure that the crisis has as limited effect on the projects as possible. However, the timing of the crisis has had an impact on the projects at a time when many of the ESRs were preparing for transferring location between primary supervisor and secondary supervisor and also planning to visit their non-academic supervisors in industry or research institutes. Supervisors of the ESRs are developing modifications to the project plans to mitigate against effects of the covid-19 pandemic to ensure that it will not affect the outcome of their doctoral programmes.