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.

Besselsen, D., Gerner, E. W., Ignatenko, N. A., & Besselsen, D. G. (2003). Preclinical models for chemoprevention of colon cancer. Recent results in cancer research. Fortschritte der Krebsforschung. Progrès dans les recherches sur le cancer, 163.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer incidence and death in the USA in 2002. Specific genetic defects have been identified which cause hereditary colon cancers in humans. In addition, a number of intestinal luminal risk factors for colon cancer have been described. This information has been exploited to develop experimental cell and rodent models which recapitulate features of human colon cancer. In this chapter, we will discuss the strengths and limitations of these models to further our understanding of basic mechanisms of colon carcinogenesis and to develop strategies for colon cancer chemoprevention.

Besselsen, D. G., Myers, E. L., Franklin, C. L., Korte, S. W., Wagner, A. M., Henderson, K. S., & Weigler, B. J. (2008). Transmission probabilities of mouse parvovirus 1 to sentinel mice chronically exposed to serial dilutions of contaminated bedding. Comparative medicine, 58(2), 140-4.

Intermittent serodetection of mouse parvovirus (MPV) infections in animal facilities occurs frequently when soiled bedding sentinel mouse monitoring systems are used. We evaluated induction of seroconversion in naïve single-caged weanling ICR mice (n = 10 per group) maintained on 5-fold serially diluted contaminated bedding obtained from SCID mice persistently shedding MPV1e. Soiled bedding from the infected SCID mice was collected, diluted, and redistributed weekly to cages housing ICR mice to represent chronic exposure to MPV at varying prevalence in a research colony. Sera was collected every other week for 12 wk and evaluated for reactivity to MPV nonstructural and capsid antigens by multiplex fluorescent immunoassay. Mice were euthanized after seroconversion, and DNA extracted from lymph node and spleen was evaluated by quantitative PCR. Cumulative incidence of MPV infection for each of the 7 soiled bedding dilution groups (range, 1:5 to 1:78125 [v/v]) was 100%, 100%, 90%, 20%, 70%, 60%, and 20%, respectively. Most seropositive mice (78%) converted within the first 2 to 3 wk of soiled bedding exposure, correlating to viral exposure when mice were 4 to 7 wk of age. Viral DNA was detected in lymphoid tissues collected from all mice that were seropositive to VP2 capsid antigen, whereas viral DNA was not detected in lymphoid tissue of seronegative mice. These data indicate seroconversion occurs consistently in young mice exposed to high doses of virus equivalent to fecal MPV loads observed in acutely infected mice, whereas seroconversion is inconsistent in mice chronically exposed to lower doses of virus.