Research Partnership Spans Ocean, Time Zones

Dr. Refinetti

Dr. Glusppe and Dr. Roberto Refinetti

Mice may be the most popular test subjects for scientific research, but their usefulness does have limits. “You always want to check what you learn in the small animals with those large animals that are also diurnal like humans and with bigger bodies,” says Dr. Roberto Refi-netti, USC Salkehatchie academic dean and professor of psychology. “Ninety-nine percent of research in the biomedical sciences is done in rodents, so it’s great when you have a chance to do research with larger animals.” Refinetti, who has been the recipient of numerous federal grant funds for his research into circadian rhythms, has a lab on the Salkehatchie campus in which he studies the effects of light and other factors on the sleep and tempera-ture patterns of mice. According to Refinetti, circadian rhythm research helps increase understanding of how our bodies adjust to changes in the environment, including changes in length of daylight, access to food, and temperature. An international collaboration with Dr. Giuseppe Piccione, DVM, from the School of Veterinary Medi-cine at the University of Messina (Italy), has given him an opportunity to observe those impacts on larger animals over the past eight years. Together, the men have collaborated on experiments involving everything from rabbits, goats, and sheep to horses. Piccione has access to the larger mammals through his veterinary school, which allows for collection of larger and more frequent blood samples than Refinetti can access from mice. Results of their studies have appeared in publications such as the Journal of Thermal Biology, Frontiers in Bioscience, Journal of Veterinary Medical Science, and Journal of Physiological Sciences. Refinetti has made three trips to Italy to see the facilities where the animals are housed and research is performed; this summer marked the first time Piccione visited Refinetti’s lab in South Carolina.