sealPurdue Science Tips
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June 1995

Purdue soybean contest fuels student creativity

The Purdue University contest that gave the world soybean crayons last year has now sparked an earth-friendly, soy-based fire-starter. The "Fire Bean" took first place in Purdue's second annual Innovative Uses for Soybeans contest, earning its student inventors $5,000 in prize money. The Fire Bean is composed of all-natural ingredients that burn more cleanly and should appeal more to consumers than similar paraffin or petroleum-based products already on the market, according to inventors Amy Khal, a junior agricultural engineering student from Iowa City, Iowa, and Brian Beales, a junior in mechanical engineering from Mendota Heights, Minn. The contest is sponsored by the Purdue Department of Agronomy and the Indiana Soybean Development Council. Khal said the Fire Bean, which resembles a granola bar, is made entirely from compressed sawdust and hydrogenated soybean oil, and could be used as a fire-starter or manufactured as a fabricated fire log for fireplaces and campfires. She and Beales estimate it would cost 83 cents to manufacture one Fire Bean compared to $1 for a similar fire-starter already on the market. CONTACT: Bernard Tao, faculty adviser, associate professor of agricultural engineering, (765) 494-1183; Internet, tao@ecn.purdue.edu

Pump technology offers promise in treating spinal cord injuries

Purdue researchers have found that by surgically placing a small pump under the skin and near the spinal cord of healthy dogs, they can deliver -- with no adverse effects -- high doses of a drug that "excites" nerve endings. Professor Richard Borgens, director of the Center for Paralysis Research, says the results hold potential for the same system to be used in paralyzed people with few or none of the side effects associated with oral or intravenous delivery of the drug. The drug, called 4-AP for short, was delivered directly to the spinal-cord injury. Although delivered in high concentrations, the concentration of the drug in the blood became very low, reducing the potential for adverse side effects, Borgens says. His group now is implanting the pump -- about the size of a hockey puck -- in dogs with naturally occurring spinal injuries. The veterinary trial will test whether delivering the drug directly to the injured spinal cord will help dogs with long-term injuries recover some neurological function such as muscular control and sensation. The drug works by allowing nerve impulses to cross regions of the damaged spinal cord. Such impulses ordinarily are blocked after a severe spinal cord injury. The results of the study on healthy dogs were published in the Journal of Neurotrauma. CONTACT: Borgens, professor of developmental anatomy, (765) 494-7600.

Purdue Libraries make web link to federal documents

The first World Wide Web connection to the Government Printing Office's main computer, giving access to federal data bases, is now available through Purdue University. That means users can look up information in the Federal Register, Congressional Record, History of Bills, U.S. Code and other government data bases. Carl E. Snow, network access librarian with Purdue Libraries, which made the link possible, says the link means easier and simpler access to the Federal Register and other government records for specific information. The Federal Register, which on paper can average more than 200 pages daily, contains such information as proposed federal regulations, pending legislation, and requests for funding from government agencies. The Congressional Record, published daily while Congress is in session, is the principal log of debate in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. The U.S. Code is a listing of all the laws in effect in the United States as of a certain date. Ten people at a time will be able to log into the Government Printing Office data bases through Purdue by typing in the following address: http://thorplus.lib.purdue.edu/gpo/ CONTACT: Snow, (765) 494-2764; Internet, carl@smart.lib.purdue.edu

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; e-mail, purduenews@purdue.edu

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: This list of story ideas is available via e-mail. To receive it, send a message that says "send punews 9505f48" to almanac@ecn.purdue.edu. Purdue News Service also maintains a searchable data base of faculty experts and posts news releases on a web server at http://www.purdue.edu/uns and a gopher server at newsgopher.uns.purdue.edu. The web site also offers downloadable photographs.


* To the Purdue News and Photos Page mal-welfare issues. "More information is needed that relates animal health and welfare to stress, the environment, behavior, husbandry practices and productivity," Beck says. "We need people who understand the science, politics and emotions of animal welfare." Ten graduates have completed the program and received certificates. To assess the program's effectiveness, graduates are being tracked to see if they're working in related fields. Eventually, an undergraduate major and a graduate degree in animal welfare may be offered.

Study may help reduce number of dogs given up for adoption

A Purdue School of Veterinary Medicine study may challenge some previous beliefs about why owners give their dogs or cats to shelters. "For example, when shelter personnel ask people why they're giving up their pet, often the answer is because they're moving or they got it as a gift," says Dr. Gary Patronek, a fellow in the veterinary school. "While that may be true, it might not necessarily be a real risk factor. We want to uncover the underlying factors -- perhaps income, breed, if the pet's been sterilized -- that influence people to relinquish their pets to shelters." The results, available in early July, may help animal shelters and other animal-welfare groups develop educational and intervention programs to reduce the number of pets destroyed at shelters.

Computer simulations replace animals as teaching tools

Concern for the use of animals in the classroom has prompted several Purdue specialists to develop computer programs that make diagnosis and drug testing possible on a computer screen instead of a live animal. For example, Craig Marcus, associate professor of toxicology, created a computer model that lets pharmacy students use simulated animals to test the interactions among a variety of drugs. In the School of Veterinary Medicine, efforts involve development of a 3-D representation of a dog so students can practice surgical techniques or learn anatomy, and development of computer-based lessons to teach physiology and anatomy. Dr. Fred Roesel, professor of veterinary physiology, and colleagues have developed video laser disks that, when paired with lessons on a computer, help students do neurological exams of a horse, dog and cat without using the real animal.

Professor studies what makes cows content

For 30 years Professor Jack Albright has worked to improve conditions for animals and farm workers in the dairy and livestock industries. He conceived many of the innovations that are widespread practices today, such as grooved flooring in dairy barns to prevent dairy cow slips and falls, and floor-level feed bunks that let cows eat in a more natural grazing-like position. One test that he and Purdue researchers Julie Morrow-Tesch, Dan Bollinger and Simon Kenyon developed involved restraining dairy cows in head locks for four hours and then releasing the cows for observation. The theory is that the behavior the animals missed most would be the one they would perform first upon release. Preliminary results showed many of the cows first engaged in grooming themselves and other cows. Albright, professor of animal sciences and veterinary medicine, also collaborated with a musical therapist to study the effect of certain kinds of music on cows' milk production and found that the bovines preferred classical to rock-and-roll.

CONTACTS

Center studies production animals on their own turf:

Assistant Professor Julie Morrow-Tesch, director, (765) 494-8022; Internet, jmorrow@hub.ansc.purdue.edu
Professor Bud Harmon, head, Department of Animal Sciences, (765) 494-4806; Internet,Bud_Harmon@acn,purdue.edu
Professor Jack Albright is on sabbatical until July 15 but can receive messages at (765) 494-8010 or
Internet, Jack_Albright@acn.purdue.edu
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