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Zoology: Non-invasive test helps pinpoint when female pandas are in heat

Scientific Reports

November 22, 2012

A non-invasive technique known as near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) combined with a new scientific discipline known as aquaphotomics can be used to detect when female giant pandas have entered oestrus ? the state of sexual excitement that precedes ovulation. The work is published in the journal Scientific Reports this week.

Previously, Roumiana Tsenkova coined the word aquaphotomics for a new discipline explaining water-light interaction dynamics and its relation to biological functions. She and her colleagues used aquaphotomics and NIRS to diagnose disease as they found that the water spectral pattern could be used as a potential biomarker. The giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) was characterized as endangered in the 2011 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and captive breeding must be carried out to maintain the population. Accurate monitoring of the oestrus status of female pandas is important for pinpointing the precise timing of ovulation, which takes place spontaneously during the breeding season, between February and June.

Tsenkova and co-workers used NIRS and aquaphotomics to analyze urine samples from the female giant panda to evaluate whether specific changes in water spectral patterns could be used as a biomarker for oestrus diagnosis. They report that hydrogen-bonded water structures in urine increase with oestrus, suggesting that NIRS could be used to help monitor oestrus status. Further research on the giant panda and on other species is needed to validate this potential new method of oestrous detection.

doi: 10.1038/srep00856

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