The Division of Veterinary Medicine is responsible for all aspects of care, husbandry and management of the animal colonies. This responsibility includes the provision of clinical veterinary medical care, development and implementation of the nonhuman primate enrichment program, maintenance and development of the animal records database, research support, and collection of biological specimens. The Division administers the Veterinary Resources program through eight individual units that work in conjunction to accomplish Division objectives. The units are the Office of the Associate Director for Veterinary Resources and Chair of the Division, Clinical and Research Medicine, Research Resources, Animal Resources, Environmental Enrichment, Compliance and Training, Genetics and Genome Banking Core and Biomedical Engineering. The Division consists of approximately 150 members including 10 full-time faculty, two laboratory animal medicine residents, veterinary and animal care technicians, and administrative staff. In addition, the Division administers a Laboratory Animal Medicine residency program for veterinarians and trains approximately five veterinary student interns each year. Dr. Rudolf P. Bohm, Jr., Associate Director for Veterinary Resources at the TNPRC and Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Tulane School of Medicine, is Chairman of the Division. The functions of the Division can be divided into three main areas: 1) Research, 2) Research Resources and 3) Education and Training Opportunities.
The research component of the Division encompasses collaborative and independent work in a number of areas. Research focuses on behavioral biology, diagnosis and treatment of spontaneous disease in nonhuman primates (NHP), infectious disease, and development of new animal models and research techniques in NHP.
Tailoring behavioral management to rearing and research
Research must keep pace with elaborations to environmental enhancement programs in order to guide program evolution toward optimal benefit for the individual primate. This project provides direct benefit to the well-being and management of the Tulane National Primate Research Center colony, as well as to the Center’s ability to make science-based management decisions. Rhesus macaques are being studied due to their widespread use in biomedicine and the need for enhanced management of monkeys with varied rearing and research backgrounds. Project aims focus on social grouping and human interaction as enrichment. This project will provide valuable information for decisions relating to our ever-expanding and evolving environmental enhancement program.
Clinically based research is performed in the Division of Veterinary Medicine to investigate improved diagnostics and treatment modalities for naturally occurring disease in nonhuman primates. The information that is generated in these studies improves the quality of life of animals at this and other institutions. In addition, clinical research is performed to develop new animal models and to improve the usefulness of current animal models. Several studies are ongoing and include: the use of alternative anthelmintics to treat common intestinal parasites of nonhuman primates, the development of minimally invasive (endoscopic) surgical techniques for research and clinical use, the development of strategies to prevent and treat tetanus, and the assessment of the efficacy of new analgesic therapies.
Infectious Disease Research
AIDS comprises the largest component of the infectious disease research program within the Division of Veterinary Medicine. Research projects involving nonhuman primate models of AIDS and other infectious disease models are performed in collaboration with principle investigators from other Divisions and outside institutions. Current directions of research in infectious disease involve HIV breast milk transmission, HIV pathogenesis, HIV infection and alcohol abuse, West Nile virus disease pathogenesis and vaccine development, and SARS vaccine development.
The Division has a significant service commitment to the Center, and these service functions can be divided into four major areas: 1) Animal colony management and care, 2) Clinical imaging, 3) Surgical support and 4) Genetics and Genome Banking.
Animal Colony Management and Care
Animal colony management and care is provided through the cooperation of several different units within the Division of Veterinary Medicine including Clinical and Research Medicine, Environmental Enrichment, Research Resources, and Animal Resources. The TNPRC animal colonies include the research colony and the breeding colonies. The breeding colonies are further separated into the conventional breeding colony and the specific pathogen free (SPF) colonies. The specific pathogen free colonies are comprised of animals that are free of targeted viruses that have the potential to affect health or could confound infectious disease research. Nine species of nonhuman primates are represented at the TNPRC for a total population of approximately 5000 nonhuman primates. The represented African species are sooty mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus atys), white crowned mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus lunulatus), African green monkey (Chlorcebus aethiops), patas monkey (Erythrocebus patas), and baboon (Papio spp). Macaque species consist of rhesus monkey (Macaca mulatta), pigtail macaque (Macaca nemestrina), and cynomolgus macaque (Macaca fascicularis). The TNPRC has both Chinese origin and Indian origin M. mulatta. These regional variants have been maintained as separate populations in the breeding colony. The Center also houses a small number of squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) maintained for malaria research.
The Unit of Animal Resources is a service unit that provides routine husbandry care for the animal colonies at the Center. The Unit also has responsibility to provide support to the Units of Clinical and Research Medicine, Environmental Enrichment and Research Resources, and to core and affiliate scientists. The Unit assists the Center in complying with relevant regulatory requirements including, but not limited to, those of the USDA, Public Health Service (PHS), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Routine husbandry practices include the reporting of any abnormal clinical sign or activity by animals to the appropriate veterinary medical staff and faculty. Animal Care Technicians provide support during diagnostic and therapeutic procedures and the administration of the preventive medicine program. The Unit closely coordinates its activities with research personnel to provide assistance, equipment and support for their work. The Unit of Animal Resources provides after-hours care, which includes administration of treatments, collection of biologic samples for research activities and observation of animals. The TNPRC facilities are accredited by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International (AAALAC).The Unit’s staff consists of a Vivarium Manager, Assistant Vivarium Managers, a Breeding Colony Manager, Resource Manager, Animal Care Supervisors and Animal Care Technicians.
All nonhuman primates are acquired from established USDA registered nonhuman primate importers. A veterinarian examines all animals entering the TNPRC after arrival in the quarantine facility. During the quarantine period, a minimum of three TB tests are performed in addition to Primagam testing, fecal examination for parasites, rectal swab bacterial culture, serum chemistry, complete blood count, thin and thick blood smears for parasites, and testing for type D simian retrovirus. At each sample collection time point, a veterinarian performs a body weight measurement and physical examination. Prior to release from quarantine, all animals must have a normal thoracic radiograph, negative TB skin test and negative Primagam test.
Surveillance, Diagnosis, Treatment and Control of Animal Diseases
Animals are housed and separated based on species and infections they have encountered. Prior to assignment to research protocols, all nonhuman primates have a physical examination performed by the veterinarian assigned to the research project to determine fitness for the particular study. A specific veterinarian is assigned to each research project at the time of IACUC review. This procedure allows continuity in the provision of care to individual animals. Breeding colony animals are housed in outdoor social groups. A minimum of twice yearly, all animals in a social group receive tuberculin testing, reproductive evaluations, and examination for pregnancy. Body weights, physiological samples, and demographic data are collected, and genealogical records are updated. Data collection and entry into the computerized animal records database allows the careful analysis of breeding colony production and clinical data.
The Unit of Environmental Enrichment is dedicated to improving nonhuman primate well-being through collaboration with the units of Clinical and Research Medicine and Animal Resources. The Tulane Environmental Enhancement Plan involves a number of strategies that are implemented according to animal needs and research requirements. The Plan is dynamic, permitting modification of techniques in accordance with in-house assessments and the scientific literature. New items are added to the program through an approval system including veterinary staff, animal care supervisory staff, and the Enrichment Coordinator. Conspecific social contact is the most critical element of the enrichment program, in recognition of the social nature of nonhuman primates. The socialization program places nonhuman primates into social groupings when compatible with research protocols, and dedicated staff monitors social introductions, ongoing compatibility, and social group dynamics. Other elements of the enrichment program include nonhuman primate/human positive interaction, feeding enrichment, structural enhancements, manipulable objects, and devices permitting foraging, grooming, problem-solving, and sensory enrichment. Several enrichment techniques are utilized concurrently with each individual nonhuman primate, scaled to the number and intensity of other feasible elements. Daily enrichment is implemented by Animal Care Technicians and Environmental Enrichment personnel.
Animal Resource Allocation
The Tulane Resource Allocation Committee (TRAC) was created to evaluate all proposed research projects that request utilization of the resources of the Center. The Committee, composed of ten members, includes research scientists, veterinarians, program coordinators and the animal colony epidemiologist. Several members represent facilities and programs from outside the Center. Requests are reviewed after both IACUC approval and funding is in place. Once TRAC approval is in place, the Division of Veterinary Medicine assigns the animal or space resource as it becomes available. Since the inception of the TRAC in 2001, animal allocations to affiliate (outside) investigators has been approximately 60% of the total, with the remainder allocated to core (inside) investigators.
The TNPRC Rhesus Monkey Serum Bank is maintained by the Division of Veterinary Medicine and stores serum and plasma samples collected during routine veterinary care procedures for the breeding colony. The serum bank also includes samples collected during routine monitoring of viral status for the SPF colony. The purpose of the serum bank is to provide samples for retrospective analysis of the colony and for investigator use, if required, to minimize the need to access animals from the colony for serum samples. The samples have been catalogued and entered into the Center’s database.
Breeding Colony Management
The Breeding Colonies of the TNPRC provide nonhuman primates to core investigators and affiliate investigators for research. The breeding colonies make up the largest population of nonhuman primates at the TNPRC. All animals in the colony are tracked via a centralized, computerized animal records system. With exception of the animals housed for treatment of illness, the animals assigned to the breeding colony are housed in outdoor enclosures in social groups. Social groups are housed in large fenced corrals and field cages that allow for the establishment of a normal social dynamics similar to that found in feral troops. The breeding colony management program is designed and administered by veterinarians, the breeding colony manager, environmental enrichment coordinator, and the breeding colony epidemiologist through the Breeding Colony Management Committee. In addition, the Tulane Resource Allocation Committee (TRAC) facilitates breeding colony management by determining appropriate allocation of animals for assignment to research protocols based on statistical analysis of colony demographics. The demand for animals from the SPF and conventional colonies has increased dramatically over the past five years. Requests from investigators reflect the need for more thoroughly characterized nonhuman primates, with regard to viral status and genetic background. Our long-range goal is to expand the breeding colonies so that all animals are SPF.
Radiology support is provided with a Continental 150KV, 300 mA fluoroscopy unit with image intensification. A direct digital radiography system is utilized to capture images to a picture archiving system (PACS) server. Approximately 700 radiographs are taken each year.
Ultrasonographic examinations and procedures are performed using one of three Toshiba or a portable GE Logicbook ultrasound machine. Color doppler capability is present on all of the machines.
MRI is performed on the TNPRC campus on a contract basis utilizing a private imaging company.
Surgery is performed in three fully-equipped operating rooms. Surgical facilities are under the direct supervision of a veterinarian, who is assisted by the surgery supervisor and two surgery technicians. Procedures performed are those approved by the IACUC and/or administered for the medical management of non-research animals.
Genetics and Genome Banking Core
It is well established that the genetic background of an animal can have a substantial effect on the outcome of research procedures. Most captive populations of nonhuman primates are generally assumed to have considerable genotypic and phenotypic variability. Because this is recognized as potentially problematic for research outcomes, efforts are under way to develop pedigrees that would be useful to identify kinship relationship between research animals. The Genetics Core facility has the primary goal of performing genetic testing on young animals in the TNPRC breeding colony to determine parental relationships and to keep precise records of paternal and maternal pedigrees of all animals born into the colony. The testing currently relies on analyses of well established panels of microsatellites, although it is anticipated that in the future SNPs (single nuclear polymorphisms) will provide a more accurate and efficient method for pedigree determinations. Establishment of parentage of each newborn infant enables the Core to determine precise kinship relationships between any two animals within the colony. Pedigree information is made available to investigators and should prove useful in cases where genetic relationships among animals are important to research outcomes. Such information is also useful for the genetic management of the TNPRC breeding colony, whose primary goal is to maintain genetic diversity within populations. The Core is also responsible for the establishment of a genome banking system is using dry blood samples on archival paper and cryopreservation of primary cell lines for each animal. Cell lines are generated from fibroblasts obtained from skin biopsies taken during regular animal inventories.
Timed Breeding Program
This program is used to provide timed bred rhesus monkeys for investigator use in approved research protocols.
EDUCATION & TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES (send email)
The Division of Veterinary Medicine provides for the administration and oversight of the Laboratory Animal Medicine Preceptorship Program, Laboratory Animal Medicine Residency Program and the Division of Veterinary Medicine Training Committee.
Laboratory Animal Medicine Preceptorship Program
Veterinary students enrolled in the professional curriculum and postgraduate veterinarians participate in the program. Our training program exposes veterinary students and graduate veterinarians to all aspects of the research environment, including regulatory issues, research support, colony health surveillance, clinical medicine, and surgery. In addition, the Division of Comparative Pathology at TNPRC provides instruction in pathological findings of spontaneous and experimental disease in nonhuman primates to these students. On average, five students per year are mentored through this program.
Laboratory Animal Medicine Residency Program
The objective of the Tulane University Laboratory Animal Medicine Training Program is to provide a broad exposure to the field of laboratory animal medicine to veterinarians, to train them in the principles of biomedical research, to prepare them for board certification by the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine (ACLAM) and a career in laboratory animal medicine. Two options are available to residents, the first emphasizing nonhuman primates (NHP) and the second being more species balanced. Residents will complete didactic and hands on training as well as complete a first author publication using data derived from a hypothesis driven research project. The Tulane University Laboratory Animal Medicine Training Program is a collaborative effort between Tulane University and the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine (LSUSVM) that was established in 2002.
The program is accredited by ACLAM and is focused to provide detailed training in clinical medicine and surgery for laboratory animal species in the environment of a biomedical research program. Residents are required to design and act as the principal investigator for a small research study focused on infectious disease, clinical medicine, surgery, laboratory animal management or animal behavior. Depending on the track chosen, the successful applicant will spend up to two months per year at the LSUSVM in Baton Rouge, La, rotating through two vivaria covering a broad range of species. Weekly didactic colloquia are held at the LSUSVM for residents from the Tulane and LSUSVM training programs. Ten months per year are spent at the Tulane National Primate Research Center (TNPRC) and the Tulane University Department of Comparative Medicine (DCM) at the Tulane School of Medicine and Uptown Campus Vivaria. Additionally, training includes a weekly seminar, slide review, case presentation, instruction of veterinary students, facility management, and diagnostic pathology. Residents will participate in monthly virtual grand rounds and an annual meeting with fellow residents enrolled in similar training programs. Opportunities exist for subsequent doctoral level training at the TNPRC.
The Tulane University Laboratory Animal Medicine Training Program provides two options for residents. Option 1 of the Tulane University Laboratory Animal Medicine Training Program is a two-year program geared toward the clinical care of all research animals with an emphasis on nonhuman primates used in biomedical research. Option 2 of the Tulane University Laboratory Animal Medicine Training Program is a two-year program geared toward the clinical care of all research animals with no particular species emphasis.
The Training Committee of the Division of Veterinary Medicine provides training to employees of the Division. The training committee membership consists of veterinarians, management personnel, technicians, quality assurance personnel and the TNPRC Occupational Health and Safety Nurse. A series of training modules using PowerPoint presentations for topics such as occupational health and safety, use of personal protective equipment, disease control measures, animal observations, environmental enrichment, review of routine husbandry practices, and anesthesia in nonhuman primates were created and are presented at Division meetings. The training program for new staff requires a rotation for each new employee through the various components of the Division of Veterinary Medicine prior to final assignment.
STAFF (View Publications) Chair – Rudolf P. Bohm, Jr., DVM, Associate Director for Veterinary Resources, Professor of Clinical Medicine
Aye, Pyone Pyone DVM, PhD, Associate Professor
Baker, Kate PhD, Research Professor
Blanchard, James L. DVM, PhD, Adjunct Professor
Bohm Jr., Rudolf P. DVM, Professor
Doyle, Lara A. DVM, Assistant Professor
Dufour, Jason DVM, Assistant Professor
Gilbert, Margaret H. DVM, Assistant Professor
Grasperge, Brooke F. DVM, Assistant Professor
Kubisch, Michael PhD, Associate Professor
Ratterree, Marion DVM, Assistant Professor
Russell-Lodrigue, Kasi E. DVM, PhD, Assistant Professor