The Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine received the largest single gift in its history: $12.6 million from the estate of the late alumnus Albert C. Dehn. The gift funds two endowed chairs in the Departments of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and the Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigations, with a plan that the gift could eventually support four endowed positions.
Both departments are nationally and internationally recognized as a source of groundbreaking research. From identifying the effects of bacteria in autoimmune disorders, to investigating the implications of antimicrobial resistance and protecting the food chain, to understanding airway cell damage and repair in connection with the effects of airborne pollution, these departments are leaders in advancing better health for animals and humans.
Dr. Linda Mansfield, university distinguished professor for the Departments of Large Animal Clinical Sciences and Microbiology and Molecular Genetics, formerly led the MSU Enterics Research Investigational Network (ERIN). She has received more than 25 honors and awards for her work as a scientist and educator. Mansfield’s vision is to engage faculty across the Department, College, and University by creating dynamic interdisciplinary teams to solve complex health problems at the interphase of animal and human health.
Mansfield’s research interests focus on the study of enteric pathogens that cause gastrointestinal disease. She studies the foodborne bacterium Campylobacter jejuni; she has produced a diagnostic test and demonstrated that this infection can lead to autoimmune diseases including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS). Both are rising in incidence and GBS is the number one cause of paralysis, now that polio has been controlled. Her work identifying virulence genes and evolution of Campylobacter in the host during infection has led to better understanding of how this pathogen triggers acute and chronic disease. Based on this, her current work is focused on discovery of therapeutics or preventatives that could be applied in animals and humans.
After she earned her MS in virology from the University of Delaware, Mansfield went on to earn her VMD and PhD in parasitology and immunology from the University of Pennsylvania. She then became a postdoctoral fellow for the Agricultural Research Service with the United States Department of Agriculture. Her most notable contributions to science include determining the lifecycle of Sarcocystis neurona; illustrating the pathogenesis of C. jejuni, its immunity in porcine (pig) and murine (mouse) models, and its evolution in a natural host; determining antibiotic-resistant C. jejuni in animal populations and the environment; illustrating the pathogenesis of GBS; and defining the role of the early infant microbiome in mediating allergic outcomes.
Dr. Jack Harkema, university distinguished professor for the Department of Pathobiology and Diagnostic Investigation, directs the Great Lakes Air Center for Integrated Environmental Research (GLACIER), one of only four US Environmental Protection Agency-funded Clean Air Research Centers in the nation. He also is a faculty member of MSU’s Institute for Integrative Toxicology, which focuses on the health and environmental effects of toxic agents.
Harkema, an alumnus of the College, conducts research designed to clarify the biological mechanisms responsible for airway injury, repair, and adaptation in response to environmental exposures to toxic agents. Much of his recent work has focused on developing animal models of human respiratory, cardiovascular, metabolic, and autoimmune diseases that are used to study how chronic disease may influence an individual’s susceptibility to adverse health effects of outdoor air pollutants.
Harkema came to MSU to earn his MS in animal physiology and DVM. He went on to earn his PhD in comparative pathology from the University of California, Davis. Harkema worked for nearly a decade as an experimental pathologist for the Inhalation Toxicology Research Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico before he returned to Michigan State University in 1994.
Harkema’s research and productive collaborations are reflected in more than 240 publications with coauthors from 19 different units at MSU and 133 national and international laboratories. His most notable contributions to science include designing, constructing, and utilizing mobile air research laboratories to study the inhalation toxicology of “real-world” particulate air pollution found in urban and rural communities; illustrating how toxicologic pathology of the respiratory tract should be microscopically examined and morphometrically measured using state-of-the-art digital imaging techniques; and elucidating the pathobiology underlying the harmful health effects of commonly encountered air pollutants, like ozone and particulate matter.
Currently, Harkema’s laboratory, along with that of his long-time MSU collaborator, Dr. James Pestka (Food Science and Human Nutrition), are embarking on an National Institutes of Health-funded research project to determine how dietary interventions of omega 3 fatty acids may prevent the early onset of autoimmune diseases, like systemic lupus erythematosus, that are triggered by inhalation exposure to silica dust and possibly other airborne toxicants found in the environment or workplace.