There is the prospect of bringing drugs to the market more quickly at less cost, as well as accelerating progress in other forms of therapy, notably the use of stem cells in regenerative medicine.
The potential in this new field was discussed at a recent workshop organised by the European Science Foundation (ESF), which called for a European pig clinic to facilitate generation and characterisation of models of human disease that would be funded within the EU's Seventh Framework programme, the main source of EU funding for research projects.
The immediate goal in the field is to establish a common standardised way of using animals with clearly defined characteristics (phenotypes), so that results can be compared across Europe. "The workshop showed that there is excellent expertise in individual labs, but the phenotypic tests need to be harmonised and standardised to facilitate comparison of results obtained in different labs," said Angelika Schnieke, one of the workshop's convenors, who holds the chair of Livestock Biotechnology at the Centre of Life Science in Weihenstephan, Germany.
Such standardisation has already been achieved for rodents, particularly the mouse, which is the most widely used animal model at present for human disease research. The extension of such a framework to pigs and dogs will bring great rewards not just for human medicine, but also for treatment of animal diseases. "Large animals offer a link between the classical rodent models and application in the clinic," said Schnieke.
"In view of the close genetic, anatomical and physiological similarities between dog and pig on the one side and human on the other, large animal models are likely to catalyse drug development." As Schnieke added, large animals would also help pursue other therapeutic avenues beyond drug development, including new medical technologies, devices and interventions. Large animals could also be used for research in a number of disease categories, including cancer, metabolic disorders such as obesity, and regenerative therapies, such as use of stem cells to replace damaged heart muscle.
The workshop focused particularly on pigs and dogs because these two animals are quite similar in scale and anatomy to humans, while serving quite complementary functions. Dogs could be used as models for studying the immediate consequences of infectious disease, while pigs could be genetically engineered to mimic certain human conditions, such as deficiencies in the immune system. In such cases pigs would be used like mice are at present to model certain aspects of human immunity or metabolic disorder, but with the advantage of being closer to us in many respects.
"A possible idea is the generation of pigs with a humanised immune system," said Schnieke. "The proof of principle has been shown in the mouse. Immune-deficient mice can be reconstituted with human immune cells and can be used to study immune reactions, for example against tissue xenografts (transplantation of tissue between species, such as pig to human). In theory this could also be possible in pigs. Therefore the generation of immune-deficient pigs is an important goal."
But further funding is required to develop suitable pig models, possibly within a European pig clinic. The workshop also discussed setting up smaller collaborative projects focussed on specific disease areas, with a view to obtaining funding from the ESF. A task force was established to pursue these goals.
The workshop Large Animal Models for Biomedicine was held in Freising, Germany, in September 2008.
For more information http://www.esf.org/activities/exploratory-workshops/workshops-list/workshops-detail.html?ew=6503
Thomas Lau | alfa
When Air is in Short Supply - Shedding light on plant stress reactions when oxygen runs short
23.03.2017 | Institut für Pflanzenbiochemie
WPI team grows heart tissue on spinach leaves
23.03.2017 | Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
23.03.2017 | Life Sciences
23.03.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering
23.03.2017 | Earth Sciences