(12/8/2022) BATON ROUGE – Animal sciences meets biological engineering through Ashton Dalton’s undergraduate research project.
Dalton is an animal sciences major conducting research in Kevin Hoffseth’s biological image processing laboratory. He is exploring new methods to enhance detection of microstructures in bone samples from livestock.
Exploring bone microstructures is significant for detecting how a bone will fracture during mechanical or indentation testing. These microstructures are so small that most cameras cannot detect them, and this is where Dalton’s project comes into play.
In the lab, Dalton is exploring bone dye and staining techniques on bovine and swine bone samples. Improving the visibility of the bones’ microstructures helps the team explore the use of computer programs and image analysis to predict how the bone will facture.
The lab’s research is important because when conducting mechanical testing on bone it is difficult to see the bones’ microstructures, for example osteons and cement lines, said Dalton.
“When you’re trying to study how bone will fracture, you immediately run into an issue of visibility because you can’t see these structures with the naked eye, and fancy cameras, alone, only help so much,” Dalton said. “When we use bone dye and staining techniques, hopefully, that will make the microstructure visible and that will allow us to better understand how the bone is going to facture.”
Bones contain a dynamic structure that changes over a life span and is affected by pathological conditions. A record of those changes is often preserved in the bone’s microstructures.
Dalton utilizes his coursework in animal sciences to gain a better understanding of how livestock management practices and nutrition affect the animal internally.
“The connection between bioengineering and my degree in animal sciences is that in my animal sciences class I’m able to see how we feed and handle livestock,” Dalton said. “Then I’m able to see in this lab, when I go down to looking at their bone samples, how that nutrition standpoint impacts our bone quality.”
This research experience is invaluable to Dalton by expanding his skills through hands-on learning. Dalton has plans to pursue a career in the medical field, and his project is helping him solidify his goals.
"I knew I wanted to be involved with research because I want to go to medical school," he said.
In one of his introductory bioengineering courses, Dalton learned about Kevin Hoffseth’s research with bones and decided to pursue a position within his lab.
Hoffseth is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering.
Conducting research in Hoffseth’s lab allowed Dalton to consider various career paths in medicine. Orthopedic surgery is one area of medicine that he is interested in exploring.
“The biggest thing I’m getting out of doing research here in the lab is that I’m learning a lot of different skills,” he said. “I’ve learned how to code, learned how to cut and clean bone, and I’ve learned how to think on my feet and solve problems.”
After working with graduate students in labs, Hoffseth and Dalton applied for the LSU Discover Grant, which funds this project.
LSU Discover is an undergraduate research program that funds 10 research projects each semester. The program supports faculty-mentored research and scholarly activities for students.
Ashton Dalton is an animal sciences major conducting research in Kevin Hoffseth’s biological image processing laboratory. His research explores bone dye and staining techniques on livestock bone samples. Photo provided by Ashton Dalton