SRTC Users

Dr. Daniel Barreda, University of Alberta

Barreda Program Rationale and Vision

The agri-food industry continues to improve the quality of its products and the economics associated with primary animal production. Today's evolving industry has placed increased emphasis on animal health as a positive driver for animal performance and a growing factor in the generation of value for downstream consumer products. Improvements in feed utilization and the development of nutritional supplements have the potential to make great contributions in this area. Unfortunately, validation technologies for these animal health products lag significantly behind that of human systems, thereby imposing a significant gap in the generation of commercial value for these products.

Summary of Current SRTC Activities

Project: Modulation of swine immunity and health in response to vitamin D metabolites.

Our current activities at the SRTC are funded through the Alberta Agriculture Funding Consortium and DSM Nutritional Products Inc. This project has three main goals:

  1. To develop an immune-based platform for evaluation of swine immune parameters as biomarkers of health.
  2. To implement this platform to a weanling pig model of nutritional supplementation
  3. To apply this platform for the evaluation of a commercial nutritional supplement (Hy.D, DSM Nutritional Products Inc.)

Research and Technology

We utilize immune parameters as bio-indicators of animal health. We have moved beyond approaches that focus on global changes in the expression of immune genes. Instead, we look to provide the 'functional depth' necessary to properly assess the short and long-term benefits of nutritional supplements to health and the increased capacity for protection against infectious agents. Multi-site, multi-parametric analyses yield detailed comparison matrices that offer a comprehensive picture of the impact that these products have on host immuno-competence, inflammation, and energy utilization. Functional cellular responses are complemented with biochemical, genetic and phenotypic data. Increased sensitivity through state-of-the-art applications allows detection of physiologically relevant functional changes in immunity under basal and immune-challenged conditions. Our goal is to provide our partners with a significant competitive advantage in the global market through robust science-based evidence to the health benefit claims of their products


Dr. Justine Turner, University of Alberta

Dr. Paul Wales, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto

Dr. David Sigalet, University of Calgary


Our interests are all animal research related to intestinal failure in babies.  We have developed - using the neonatal piglet - a unique model for this problem, that is partially dependent on parenteral nutrition - just like the babies.  This follows on from the work Dr. Ball and Dr. Pencharz did at the SRTC for so many years on TPN fed piglets.

Babies and children - but especially preterm babies - are very vulnerable to loosing bowel length, due to various in utero or early life events, and then becoming dependent on iv nutrition (parenteral nutrition/TPN), from which unfortunately they experience severe complications, including liver failure and death.

Between Dr. Turner’s  center  in Edmonton, Dr. Wales in Toronto and Dr. Sigalet in Calgary there are probably about 30 very sick babies (at least) at any one time in hospital - and many stay in hospital for months and go home to continue TPN for many more years (perhaps never coming off but having a bowel transplant or dying).  

We see a huge burden for these patients and families and our research is aimed at finding solutions:

  • to increase bowel function after surgery where bowel is lost
  • to reduce liver disease related to TPN

Also Dr. Sigalet has evaluated a hormone treatment to improve bowel function in juvenile pigs at SRTC. Dr. Wales has looked at a new surgical procedure in slightly bigger pigs, using a different technique to standard.

Pigs and piglets, being such a good model for nutrition in humans (and especially infants), can really help us develop new strategies for the babies who are often just too sick and complex to study in research trials.