New faculty profile: Lautaro Rostoll Cangiano studies immune development and microbial colonization in dairy cattle

Lautaro Rostoll Cangiano joined the UW–Madison faculty in January 2023 as an assistant professor in the Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences. Funding for this position comes from the Dairy Innovation Hub, which has supported over a dozen faculty positions so far at UW–Madison, UW–Platteville and UW–River Falls.

What is your hometown? Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a small town called Villa Mercedes located in the central part of Argentina.

What is your educational/professional background, including your previous position?
My first job after graduating from my undergrad in agricultural engineering was as a nutritional consultant for beef and dairy farms. After two years in this role, I decided to pursue further education to expand my knowledge and expertise. I moved to the U.S. and did a master’s degree at the University of Florida. There, I had the opportunity to conduct research on the role of weaning on inflammation, immunosuppression, and insulin resistance in beef cattle. Building on this foundation, I then moved to Canada to pursue my PhD in bovine immunology at the University of Guelph, where my research focused on understanding how several on-farm management factors impact intestinal and immune development of dairy calves.

How did you get into your field of research?
When I was finishing my master’s, I attended a seminar on neonatal immunology that discussed about how different factors that affect early life microbial colonization impact immune development in babies, and how this is a contributing factor in the development of several allergies later on in life. This sparked my interest in trying to understand if the same interactions are at play in cattle and what we can do to improve it.

 What are the main goals of your current research and outreach programs?
One of the main goals is to gain a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms that shape immune development in dairy cattle during early life in order to develop novel preventative and therapeutic strategies to improve long-term health outcomes.

What was your first visit to campus like?
I loved it! The campus is beautiful and the proximity to lake Mendota makes it a very special place. 

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?
The intestinal microbiota plays a critical role in shaping the development of the immune system, especially during early life. This means that any factor that impacts microbial colonization during early life can have unexpected consequences on health later in life.

Do you share your expertise and experiences with the public through social media? If so, which channels do you use?
Yes, I am active on twitter. My Twitter account is @LRCangiano

Do you feel your work relates in any way to the Wisconsin Idea? If so, please describe how.
Absolutely! By translating my research into actionable strategies, I hope we can help dairy farmers across the state to improve cattle health while reducing antibiotic use, ultimately improving the sustainability and profitability of the Wisconsin dairy industry.

The pandemic forced us all to reconsider many things we took for granted. Is there something you’ve learned that has helped you through these challenging times, personally or professionally?
I think one of the most important lessons for me was the importance of building strong communities to help one another during strenuous times. I had to do half of my PhD during a global pandemic and having a strong community of people that supported me through this process was instrumental in my success. I hope that as a new assistant professor I can build that kind of environment for my students to thrive. 

What’s something interesting about your area of expertise you can share that will make us sound smarter at parties?
Our intestines are colonized by trillions of microorganisms that coexist with us – helping us digest food, synthesize important vitamins and regulating our immune system. In fact, our bodies carry more microbial cells than human cells by a factor of 10.

What are your hobbies and other interests?
I enjoy doing mountain sports whenever I can, from skiing to biking and hiking.