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University of Hohenheim to start microbiome research center

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microscope science
University of Hohenheim in Germany will be location for nationally important scientific center on livestock microbiome research.

Interactions between an animal and the microorganisms in its gastrointestinal tract are key factors in livestock animals’ characteristics that include animal health and well-being and may involve reduced use of antibiotics, better use of resources and reduced environmental effects.

Up until now, these processes have not been largely understood, but with the new Hohenheim Center for Livestock Microbiome Research (HoLMiR), the University of Hohenheim in Germany will work on closing this knowledge gap, according to a decision by Germany’s Council of Science & Humanities.

A final decision on funding the research buildings will be made by the Joint Science Conference (GWK) on June 9 based on the recommendation of the Council of Science & Humanities.

In human medicine, knowledge has increasingly grown about the importance of microorganisms in a person's gastrointestinal tract. The make-up and behavior of this complex system can even influence people’s mental state and behavior, the announcement said.

“We know that these microorganisms play an important role in how animals behave, how susceptible they are to illness, whether they can utilize scarce feed resources well and how many environmentally dangerous substances they excrete. These substances include climate cases -- for example, methane produced by cows,” explained professor Dr. Markus Rodehutscord, spokesperson for the 10 leading researchers at the future HoLMiR.

Intensive basic research about the types, mechanisms, genetics and other influences on the symbiotic community of animal and microorganisms is intended to deliver the key to solving applied problems, the university said.

“In the long term, we’re hoping to find new prevention and therapy approaches for using medications, creating breeding programs for adapted (breeds) that need less feed or developing high-quality food production with fewer negative effects on the environment,” Rodehutscord said.

“This research building will enable the University of Hohenheim to pursue an exciting interdisciplinary research program that we believe is highly relevant to society,” he added.

Cost, modules, construction timeline

The university has estimated costs for HoLMiR to be around 47 million euros for construction, with another 3 million euros needed for basic equipment and 4 million for the large equipment required.

Module I of the research building will be specialized laboratories with in vitro and tissue technology as well as cutting-edge major instrumentation.

Module II of the research building will be the animal experiment unit, where up to 250 cows, sheep, pigs and chickens will be kept for use as experimental animals. Special pens will make it possible to keep fowl in a sterile environment, for example. Others will enable researchers to measure the composition of air the animals breathe and the metabolic gases they release.

The new buildings will have a total area of around 3,500 sq. m. and will serve as a platform for 10 working groups and three young scientist research groups, with a total of 40 scientific and 20 non-scientific employees.

The preparation work is expected to start in 2019, with construction tentatively starting in 2020. The planned construction timeline is two years.

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