Behind the scenes with M.Sc. candidate Sarah Dean

Research Roundup Winter 2023

Sarah performing some lab work

Tell us about your background and what brought you to the University of Guelph!  

I come from a dairy farm located 45 minutes North West of Ottawa. Growing up on a farm and being a part of my local 4-H club sparked my passion for the agriculture industry. Since a young age I knew that I wanted to have a career within the agriculture industry, therefore attending the University of Guelph was a no brainer for me. My mom also attended the University of Guelph and my Dad went to Kemptville (what was the eastern Ontario version of Ridgetown). Therefore, my decision to attend the University of Guelph was a relatively simple one! I completed my B.Sc. (Agr) in 2022 majoring in Animal Science and  then transitioned into my current M.Sc. program in September 2022 under Dr. Marcio Duarte in the department of Animal Bioscience.  

 

What is your research focusing on, can you give us a summary?  

I am currently researching the impact of late gestation vitamin A supplementation of beef cows on intramuscular fat development of the offspring. We are focusing on supplementing vitamin A since it has been shown that retinoic acid (vitamin A) has regulatory effects on adipogenic genes, and can upregulate the production of intramuscular adipocytes. We are supplementing vitamin A during the third trimester as we are utilizing fetal programing since this is the time period when intramuscular adipocytes are developed. The development of intramuscular adipogenesis occurs from the third trimester until 250 days of age (around weaning age). For my project we followed the offsprings development all the way until slaughter to compare carcass characteristics between the two groups. As well muscle tissue samples were collected a young age to be evaluated for expression of genes and proteins that are key markers of intramuscular adipogenesis and muscle growth.  

 

What is the end goal of your research, do you think vitamin A is something that should be supplemented to beef cows? 

The goal of my research is to increase intramuscular adipogenesis in the offspring of dams supplemented vitamin A during late gestation. To monitor the growth and development of the offspring they were ultrasounded frequently, intramuscular fat percentage and subcutaneous fat were measured. Interestingly the vitamin A group had significantly greater amounts of intramuscular fat at each ultrasound time point, while having no increase in subcutaneous fat. These results show potential for the use of vitamin A to increase intramuscular fat, while having no increase in other fat depots. My supervisor Dr. Marcio Duarte has also done work with injecting beef calves at birth with vitamin A. Vitamin A injection at birth increased marbling within the longissimus muscle. Therefore I believe there is a lot of potential for the industry to utilize vitamin A supplementation during early development to increase marbling.  

 

What are your plans after you complete your masters? 

            After my masters I plan on working within the agriculture industry. Currently I envision my self working within the ruminant nutrition sector as a specialist/consultant.  However, I am also passionate about research within the agriculture industry and would love to continue to contribute to progressive practices to increase production while remaining efficient and sustainable. I have also had to opportunity to work with genetics and I believe there is potential to tie my passion of nutrition and genetics together to increase the efficiency of livestock production.  

 

What are your funding sources for this project? 

I would like to thank BCRC, NSERC, and OMAFRA for their support of my project.  

 

Is there anyone else working with you on this project? 

This is my project, however I would like to thank everyone that has been there to help me in the barns, abattoir and the lab.  

 

Sarah received first place in the oral presentation category at the second annual Animal Biosciences Symposium earlier this December!

 

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