The Tail of Technology: Zoological Medicine
American Association of Zoo Veterinarians Conference 2003
Joe Bielitzki, MS, DVM
Defense Sciences Office, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Arlington, VA, USA


What new technologies hold significant promise for zoo and wildlife medicine? Physical diagnosis, clinical pathology, and new interventional strategies will see fairly dramatic changes as new technologies develop over the next several years. In the area of diagnostics, new sensor technology will provide access to bioelectric potentials without the need for skin contact. Such technologies will provide continuous monitoring of electrocardiograms, new methods for assessing fetal health, and the ability to monitor postsurgical cases with greatly reduced risk to personnel. Thermo physiology and thermal imaging will become a critical element in understanding neonatal physiology, the stress of lactation, and the complex physiology associated with hibernation, torpor, and the partition of nutrients. Thermal imaging provides a rapid method for looking at heat production and metabolism following birth and will provide early indications of maternal infant failures. In addition, new systems for controlling core body temperature will minimize postsurgical hypothermia and provide smoother recovery from anesthesia. Will there be a time when we can induce a state of stasis with a controlled reduction in metabolic activity that provides an anesthesia like state for capture, immobilization, and surgery, or to temporarily reduce stress or conflict? New systems are becoming available for rapid DNA-typing which will greatly facilitate paternity testing and aid in genetic management. These technologies will also see applications in the diagnosis of infectious agents as specific gene expression patterns are identified for both innate and acquired immunity. A greater understanding of toll-like receptors will provide insight into methods for enhancing early immune responses and for negating the paradoxical cytokine release seen by a growing number of pathogens. Vaccines will change and become an ex vivo process where engineered dendritic cells carry antigen messages to the host without exposure to the pathogen or the antigen. For field work, greater use of GIS and GPS will expand the ability to track animals in their native habitat. Batteries will become smaller and last longer, providing instrumentation that can be adapted for species less than 300 g with tracking capabilities for periods in excess of one year. Communications technology will allow GPS tracking via cell phones and satellite communication systems affording near global coverage of animal activity with information coming to the investigators desk on demand. The last area of progress will be in communication and sensory systems used by animal species adapted to multiple environments and our ability to enhance the range of human sensory capability as anatomy, structural chemistry, and neural anatomy are integrated.


Speaker Information
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Joe Bielitzki, MS, DVM
Defense Sciences Office
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)
Arlington, VA, USA

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