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The pig as a model for translational research: overview of porcine animal models at Jichi Medical University

Abstract

To improve the welfare of experimental animals, investigators seek to respect the 3R principle (Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement). Even when large animal studies are essential before moving to clinical trials, it is important to look for ways to reduce the number of experimental animals used. At the Center for the Development of Advanced Medical Technology, we consider ‘medical’ pigs to be ideal preclinical model systems.

We have been using both wild-type and genetically modified pigs. We began using this approach about 10 years ago with a ‘total pig system’ to model human health and disease for the purposes of both medical skill education and the development of new devices and therapeutic strategies.

At our Center, medical students and residents use pigs to gain experience with surgical skills and train for emergency procedures after appropriate simulation training. Senior clinicians have also used these models to advance the development of innovative tools for endo- and laparoscopic procedures. The Center focuses on translational research for organ transplantation and stem cell therapy. Several pig models have been established for liver, intestine, kidney, pancreas, and lung transplantation. Mesenchymal stromal cells have been established in green fluorescent protein- and red fluorescent protein-transgenic pigs and tested to trans-differentiate organogenesis. A program to establish induced pluripotent stem cells in the pig is ongoing at our Center.

Here, we review our 10 years of activity in this field. Based on our experience in surgical education and research, experimental pigs are valuable models in translational research.