Piglet-gut-diagram-1205PIGpigletguthealth31. The increasing public concerns about antimicrobial resistance of food-borne bacteria impose urgent needs to seek alternatives to antibiotics in agricultural animal industry. Many of feed ingredients and additives now are available as potential ‘alternatives to antibiotics’, either by altering microbial populations in the gastrointestinal tract or by influencing the immune system. However, the still-unclear mechanism hampers their application in the industry. Our research interest is to evaluate dietary effects on pig health by investigating impacts of products now available to the industry and developing new approach for the industry. Our long-term goal is to help the animal industry deploy feed-based health technologies to improve animal health.

2. The pig has been recognized as a valuable experimental model for the research focusing on digestive anatomy, physiology, and brain. The internal anatomy and physiology is very similar between humans and pigs, results in the similar physiology of digestion and associated metabolic processes. The secondary research focus is to explore the effects functional food components on human health using pig as a model.

3. A third research focus in our program is to evaluate low-cost by-products or co-products from feed or food industry as feed ingredients for pigs. The efficient use of these low-cost ingredients in pig diets will increase the sustainability of swine production and reduce the reliance of energy on traditional ingredients, such as, corn and soybean meal.

Research emphasized in Ji’s program

1. High rate of metabolic disorders, infectious disease, reproductive failure and early culling challenge the profit of high producing herds and renders overall nutrient inefficiency. I am interested to explore nutrition and management strategies to optimize metabolic adaptation, nutrient efficiency and welfare in dairy cows during periparturient and early lactation period. We would use multi-tiered approaches to answer our hypothesis from animal performance, blood biomarkers, transcriptomics of metabolic tissues/organs (adipose, skeletal muscle and liver), tissue explant culture and cell culture technique.

2. A number of epidemiology studies suggested perinatal adverse events (infection, nutrient deficiency, or stress) has long-term effects on disease resilience and brain development of human infants. Accumulating evidence suggested that early-life activation of immune system in both peripheral and CNS play a key role. I am currently using piglet as model to explore the underlying mechanism.

Ongoing research

  • Early life infectious insult on neural inflammation using a neonatal pig model
  • Cellular antioxidant activities of plant extracts
  • Immunomodulating effects of probiotics on innate immune response using porcine small intestinal epithelial cell line as a model
  • Immunomodulatory effects of β-glucan on weanling pigs
  • Short chain fatty acid on gut development of neonates