Background Information

In the 1940s, Kleiber recognized that future improvements of equations used to estimate the nutrient requirements of domestic livestock would require advancements in our understanding of nutrient transactions in animals. This led Kleiber and his many colleagues to undertake extensive studies using radiotracers to trace the metabolisms of individual nutrients in animals. The contributions of his and other groups, along with advances in our understanding of metabolic pathways, led to the adoption of the view by many workers in the late 1960s that future models used to estimate the nutrient requirements of producing livestock should be based upon equations that explicitly capture our knowledge of enzymes and the metabolic pathways in animals. Such models, comprising equations that depict our current understanding of animal metabolism and its regulation and that are firmly based on experimental data, are now referred to as mechanistic models. Also, recognition of the dynamic of the rapid changes in metabolism that occur in animals over time and observations that the previous and current physiological and nutritional status of an animal influence metabolic patterns led to the formulation of dynamic equations.

Thus, our focus is on the development of dynamic, mechanistic models of tissue and animal metabolism.

Dynamic, mechanistic models are often developed explicitly to either evaluate the adequacy of current knowledge of the system under investigation for adequacy in the quantitative and dynamic domains, or to extend the interpretation of experimental data. In this context, failures to simulate reality indicate an inadequacy in current understanding of the system and can be used as a guide in the selection, design, and interpretation of critical experiments. Because of this, they are generally considered research models.

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