David G Besselsen

David G Besselsen

Veterinary Specialist
Adjunct Associate Professor, Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences
Associate Research Scientist, BIO5 Institute
Member of the General Faculty
Member of the Graduate Faculty
Primary Department
(520) 626-6702

Research Interest

David Besselsen, DVM, PhD, is the Director of University Animal Care (UAC), the Attending Veterinarian. He is a board-certified veterinary specialist (Diplomate) in the American College of Laboratory Animal Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Pathology, and served as Interim Dean for the College of Veterinary Medicine from 2017-2019. In addition to his administrative and service responsibilities, Dr. Besselsen is actively engaged in research through the provision of comparative pathology support for rodent models and oversight of the gnotobiotic mouse service. He has directed UAC Pathology Services since his arrival in 1995 and has over 80 peer-reviewed publications. UAC Pathology Services provides diagnostic and comparative pathology support for the research animals and research animal facilities at the University of Arizona. Capabilities include hematology, blood chemistry, necropsy, histologic preparation and interpretation, and others.


Watson, J. M., Marion, S. L., Rice, P. F., Bentley, D. L., Besselsen, D. G., Utzinger, U., Hoyer, P. B., & Barton, J. K. (2014). In vivo time-serial multi-modality optical imaging in a mouse model of ovarian tumorigenesis. Cancer Biology and Therapy, 15(1), 42-60.
BIO5 Collaborators
Jennifer Kehlet Barton, David G Besselsen


Identification of the early microscopic changes associated with ovarian cancer may lead to development of a diagnostic test for high-risk women. In this study we use optical coherence tomography (OCT) and multiphoton microscopy (MPM) (collecting both two photon excited fluorescence [TPEF] and second harmonic generation [SH G]) to image mouse ovaries in vivo at multiple time points. We demonstrate the feasibility of imaging mouse ovaries in vivo during a longterm survival study and identify microscopic changes associated with early tumor development. These changes include alterations in tissue microstructure, as seen by OCT, alterations in cellular fluorescence and morphology, as seen by TPEF, and remodeling of collagen structure, as seen by SH G. These results suggest that a combined OCT-MPM system may be useful for early detection of ovarian cancer. © 2014 Landes Bioscience.

Barton, J., Hariri, L. P., Qiu, Z., Tumlinson, A. R., Besselsen, D. G., Gerner, E. W., Ignatenko, N. A., Povazay, B., Hermann, B., Sattmann, H., McNally, J., Unterhuber, A., Drexler, W., & Barton, J. K. (2007). Serial endoscopy in azoxymethane treated mice using ultra-high resolution optical coherence tomography. Cancer biology & therapy, 6(11).
BIO5 Collaborators
Jennifer Kehlet Barton, David G Besselsen

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a minimally invasive, depth-resolved imaging tool that can be implemented in a small diameter endoscope for imaging mouse models of colorectal cancer (CRC). In this study, we utilized ultrahigh resolution (UHR) OCT to serially image the lower colon of azoxymethane (AOM) treated A/J mouse models of CRC in order to monitor the progression of neoplastic transformations and determine if OCT is capable of identifying early disease.

Barton, J., Hariri, L. P., Tumlinson, A. R., Wade, N. H., Besselsen, D. G., Utzinger, U., Gerner, E. W., & Barton, J. K. (2007). Ex vivo optical coherence tomography and laser-induced fluorescence spectroscopy imaging of murine gastrointestinal tract. Comparative medicine, 57(2).
BIO5 Collaborators
Jennifer Kehlet Barton, David G Besselsen

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) and laser-induced fluorescence (LIF) spectroscopy each have clinical potential in identifying human gastrointestinal (GI) pathologies, yet their diagnostic capability in mouse models is unknown. In this study, we combined the 2 modalities to survey the GI tract of a variety of mouse strains and ages and to sample dysplasias and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) of the intestines. Segments (length, 2.5 cm) of duodenum and lower colon and the entire esophagus were imaged ex-vivo with combined OCT and LIE We evaluated 30 normal mice (A/J and 10- and 21-wk-old and retired breeder C57BL/6J) and 10 mice each of 2 strains modeling colon cancer and IBD (Apc(Min) and IL2-deficient mice, respectively). Histology was used to classify tissue regions as normal, Peyer patch, dysplasia, adenoma, or IBD. Features in corresponding OCT images were analyzed. Spectra from each category were averaged and compared via Student t tests. OCT provided structural information that led to identification of the imaging characteristics of healthy mouse GI. With histology as the 'gold standard,' we developed preliminary image criteria for early disease in the form of adenomas, dysplasias, and IBD. LIF characterized the endogenous fluorescence of mouse GI tract, with spectral features corresponding to collagen, NADH, and hemoglobin. In the IBD sample, LIF emission spectra displayed potentially diagnostic peaks at 635 and 670 nm, which we attributed to increased porphyrin production by bacteria associated with IBD. OCT and LIF appear to be useful and complementary modalities for ex vivo imaging of mouse GI tissues.

Udovich, J. A., Besselsen, D. G., & Gmitro, A. F. (2009). Assessment of acridine orange and SYTO 16 for in vivo imaging of the peritoneal tissues in mice. Journal of microscopy, 234(2), 124-9.

The effect of peritoneal injection of acridine orange and SYTO 16 in mice was investigated. Images of peritoneal tissues stained with these dyes and obtained through a confocal micro-endoscope are presented. Seventy-five Balb/c mice were split into five groups and given peritoneal injections of dye or saline. The proportions of negative outcomes in each group were compared using confidence intervals and the Fisher's exact statistical test. A statistically significant increase in adverse events due to dye injection was not observed. These data provide an initial investigation into the safety of acridine orange and SYTO 16 for in vivo imaging.

Towne, J. W., Wagner, A. M., Griffin, K. J., Buntzman, A. S., Frelinger, J. A., & Besselsen, D. G. (2014). Elimination of Pasteurella pneumotropica from a mouse barrier facility by using a modified enrofloxacin treatment regimen. Journal of the American Association for Laboratory Animal Science : JAALAS, 53(5), 517-22.

Multiple NOD. Cg-Prkdc(scid)Il2rg(tm1Wjl)Tg(HLA-A2.1)Enge/Sz (NSG/A2) transgenic mice maintained in a mouse barrier facility were submitted for necropsy to determine the cause of facial alopecia, tachypnea, dyspnea, and sudden death. Pneumonia and soft-tissue abscesses were observed, and Pasteurella pneumotropica biotype Jawetz was consistently isolated from the upper respiratory tract, lung, and abscesses. Epidemiologic investigation within the facility revealed presence of this pathogen in mice generated or rederived by the intramural Genetically Engineered Mouse Model (GEMM) Core but not in mice procured from several approved commercial vendors. Epidemiologic data suggested the infection originated from female or vasectomized male ND4 mice obtained from a commercial vendor and then comingled by the GEMM Core to induce pseudopregnancy in female mice for embryo implantation. Enrofloxacin delivered in drinking water (85 mg/kg body weight daily) for 14 d was sufficient to clear bacterial infection in normal, breeding, and immune-deficient mice without the need to change the antibiotic water source. This modified treatment regimen was administered to 2400 cages of mice to eradicate Pasteurella pneumotropica from the facility. Follow-up PCR testing for P. pneumotropica biotype Jawetz remained uniformly negative at 2, 6, 12, and 52 wk after treatment in multiple strains of mice that were originally infected. Together, these data indicate that enrofloxacin can eradicate P. pneumotropica from infected mice in a less labor-intensive approach that does not require breeding cessation and that is easily adaptable to the standard biweekly cage change schedule for individually ventilated cages.