In a broad sense, Dilger’s research integrates the interdisciplinary fields of animal nutrition and immunophysiology, including the ability of nutrients to impact metabolic, immunologic, and developmental patterns. Appropriate perinatal nutrition is increasingly recognized to play a particularly crucial role in influencing biological outcomes, with many consequences not fully appreciated until long after birth. The long-term goal of Dilger’s research program is to elucidate mechanisms by which nutrient supply during the perinatal period elicits permanent long-term consequences on metabolic and functional aspects of discrete body tissues.
Influence of Early-Life Nutrition on Brain Development
Dilger will discuss his current research involving the development and use of a translational pig model to assess composition, structure, and function of the pig brain longitudinally from birth to adolescence, with the ultimate goal of generating clinically-relevant information pertinent to pediatric nutrition. The domestic pig, due to its anatomic and physiologic similarities to humans, is a well-established preclinical model in cardiovascular, metabolic, and pediatric nutrition research and recently, use of the pig as a model for neurodevelopment research has increased. Dilger’s research combines delivery of specific nutrient profiles to mature pigs and their progeny, with techniques to assess brain development (e.g., magnetic resonance imaging) and functional aspects of cognition (e.g., behavioral assays of learning and memory). As such, Dilger will discuss how early-life delivery of specific nutrients, including iron, choline, and novel lipid emulsions, affect behavior and developmental aspects using the biomedical pig model.