Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Mini-pig tale provides massive amount of genomic data for human health

Researchers provide a whole-genome sequence and analysis of a miniature pig that serves as a model organism for human medical studies and therapeutic drug testing

The international open-access journal GigaScience (a BGI and BioMed Central journal) announces the publication of the whole-genome sequencing and analysis of the Wuzhishan Pig, an extensively inbred, miniature pig, which can serve as an excellent model for human medical research.

The availability of the mini-pig genome provides a wealth of genetic tools that will enable detailed and well thought-out analyses on an animal that shares a substantial number of complex diseases with humans. The work here, led by researchers from the BGI, Beijing Institute of Animal Science (IAS), and Chinese Academy of Agriculture Science (CAAS), also revealed potentially actionable resources including the identification of the porcine counterparts of human drug target genes.

Pigs are one of the oldest domesticated livestock species, and as well as providing one of the largest sources of meat worldwide, also provide important medical industrial resources, such as pharmaceutical-grade heparin and heart valves for xenotransplantation. The pig shares many of the same complex genetic diseases as humans, making them excellent models for studying the underlying biology of human disease. Furthermore, the similarity of the pig diet and digestive system with humans makes them ideal for investigation of metabolic diseases and nutritional analyses. The Wuzhishan pig used in this study provides additional advantages for medical analysis: its small size makes it easy to handle; and its long history of inbreeding have resulted in a breed of pigs made up of individuals that are genetically very similar, allowing greater reproducibility in scientific analyses.

To provide the best understanding of the genetics of the Wuzhishan pig and tools for laboratory studies, the researchers at the BGI in collaboration with scientists from several institutions in China and Denmark, carried out whole genome sequencing. They obtained a genome sequence of exceptionally high quality and used this to assess genomic structure and functional elements and investigate characteristics that would be of great interest for medical studies. In particular they looked at genes and protein domains that were the pig counterpart of human genes that are important for therapeutic drug activity. These analyses showed that the Wuzhishan pig genome contained a very large number of similar drug target genes for several types of human disorders, indicating that this pig would serve as an excellent model for drug testing in these cases. However, the researchers also found that there were several situations where target genes showed important differences from the human versions. This information is of great use as well, as it provides a clear indication of the types of drug testing for which this organism is not as useful, saving unnecessary experimentation, time, and money.

Lead researchers Dr Yutao Du and Prof Shutang Feng note that, "the physiological similarities to humans was maintained at a genetic level with 84% homology between the two species. While there was a great deal of similarity in genes known to be involved in coronary artery disease and drug target genes, detailed analysis showed that there were several important differences which need to be taken account of."

The scientists also assessed the presence of viruses integrated into the genome, which is a concern given that pigs have been considered as a possible source of xenotransplantation and thus viruses could be transferred to the human patients through transplantation.

Drs Du and Feng noted that the viral analyses provide tools and information for investigating such concerns by allowing more direct assessment of the risk of transmission. They explained that, "both humans and pigs carry viruses hidden within their genomes. One particular virus, porcine endogenous retrovirus (PER), once activated can infect human cells, however the genome sequence has revealed that a specific type PER virus (type C) has been lost from the mini-pig."

Overall, the extensive amount of work in this study serves as a springboard for more economical and directed means of carrying out biomedical analyses and also provides a new resource for investigation of economically important traits, domestication events, and the evolution of this group of animals.

Of further note: in addition to this study, also published today in the journal Nature is independent work from the Swine Genome Sequencing Consortium presenting a reference genome of a breed of pig that is an economically important food source, and the additional genomes of a number of European and Asian wild and domesticated swine species. Also released today in several BioMed Central journals is a series of accompanying articles that cover various related topics, such as pig genome structure and function, genome annotation, and findings of biomedical relevance.

In keeping with the scientific community's goals of making the data underlying the analyses used in published research fully and freely available, all data from this project are available under a CC0 waiver in the GigaScience database, GigaDB, in a citable format, and are also available under the following accession numbers in the NCBI public repositories: NCBI Sequence Read Archive: SRA051254, NCBI BioProject: PRJNA144099, and NCBI GenBank AJKK00000000.


Xiaodong Fang, Yulian Mu, Zhiyong Huang, Yong Li, Lijuan Han, Yanfeng Zhang, Yue Feng, Yuanxin Chen, Xuanting Jiang, Wei Zhao, Xiaoqing Sun, Zhiqiang Xiong, Lan Yang, Huan Liu, Dingding Fan, Likai Mao, Lijie Ren, Chuxin Liu, Juan Wang, Kui Li, Guangbiao Wang, Shulin Yang, Liangxue Lai, Guojie Zhang, Yingrui Li, Jun Wang, Lars Bolund, Huanming Yang, Jian Wang, Shutang Feng, Songgang Li and Yutao Du: The sequence and analysis of an inbred pig genome GigaScience 2012 1:16

Fang, X; Huang, Z; Li, Y; Feng, Y; Chen, Y; Jiang, X; Yang, L (2012): Genomic data from the Wuzhishan inbred pig (Sus scrofa). GigaScience.

Martien A.M. Groenen et al., 'Analysis of pig genomes provide insight into porcine demography and evolution' Nature 2012, in press

This work was supported by the National Science and Technology Ministry Project - 973 program (2011CB944201), Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Transomics Biotechnologies (CXB201108250096A), and Shenzhen Key Laboratory of Gene Bank for National Life Science.

Scott Edmunds | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Don't Give the Slightest Chance to Toxic Elements in Medicinal Products
23.03.2018 | Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB)

nachricht North and South Cooperation to Combat Tuberculosis
22.03.2018 | Universität Zürich

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>