Porcine models for studying complications and organ crosstalk in diabetes mellitus

  • Simone Renner
  • Andreas Blutke
  • Sebastian Clauss
  • Cornelia A. Deeg
  • Elisabeth Kemter
  • Daphne Merkus
  • Rüdiger Wanke
  • Eckhard WolfEmail author


The worldwide prevalence of diabetes mellitus and obesity is rapidly increasing not only in adults but also in children and adolescents. Diabetes is associated with macrovascular complications increasing the risk for cardiovascular disease and stroke, as well as microvascular complications leading to diabetic nephropathy, retinopathy and neuropathy. Animal models are essential for studying disease mechanisms and for developing and testing diagnostic procedures and therapeutic strategies. Rodent models are most widely used but have limitations in translational research. Porcine models have the potential to bridge the gap between basic studies and clinical trials in human patients. This article provides an overview of concepts for the development of porcine models for diabetes and obesity research, with a focus on genetically engineered models. Diabetes-associated ocular, cardiovascular and renal alterations observed in diabetic pig models are summarized and their similarities with complications in diabetic patients are discussed. Systematic multi-organ biobanking of porcine models of diabetes and obesity and molecular profiling of representative tissue samples on different levels, e.g., on the transcriptome, proteome, or metabolome level, is proposed as a strategy for discovering tissue-specific pathomechanisms and their molecular key drivers using systems biology tools. This is exemplified by a recent study providing multi-omics insights into functional changes of the liver in a transgenic pig model for insulin-deficient diabetes mellitus. Collectively, these approaches will provide a better understanding of organ crosstalk in diabetes mellitus and eventually reveal new molecular targets for the prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes mellitus and its associated complications.


Pig model Diabetes Complications Retinopathy Cardiomyopathy Nephropathy Organ crosstalk Biobank Multi-omics analysis Obesity 



The authors gratefully acknowledge Prof. Peter Cowan, Fellow of the Center for Advanced Studies (CAS) of LMU Munich, for careful editing of the manuscript.

Funding information

This work was supported by the German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD; 82DZD00802, 82DZD0043G, 82DZD0044G, 82DZD0015G to EW, SR and EK), the German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK; 81X2600210, 81X2600204, 81X3600208, 81X2600249 to SC, 81Z0600207 to DM), the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (TRR127 to EW and EK and DFG DE 719/7-1/SPP2127 to CD), the European Union (iNanoBIT grant agreement no. 760986 to EK and EW), the Bayerische Forschungsstiftung (AZ-1247-16 VasOP to EK and EW), the LMU Munich’s Institutional Strategy LMUexcellent within the framework of the German Excellence Initiative (to SC), the Förderprogramm für Forschung und Lehre (FöFöLe; 962 to SC), the Heinrich-and-Lotte-Mühlfenzl Stiftung (to SC), the ERA-NET on Cardiovascular Diseases (ERA-CVD; 01KL1910 to SC), the Netherlands Cardiovascular Research Initiative, an initiative with financial support from the Dutch Heart Foundation (CVON2014-11, RECONNECT to DM), and the Corona-Foundation (S199/10079/2019 to SC).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chair for Molecular Animal Breeding and Biotechnology, Gene CenterLMU MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.Laboratory for Functional Genome Analysis (LAFUGA), Gene CenterLMU MunichMunichGermany
  3. 3.Center for Innovative Medical Models (CiMM), Department of Veterinary SciencesLMU MunichOberschleißheimGermany
  4. 4.German Center for Diabetes Research (DZD)NeuherbergGermany
  5. 5.Research Unit Analytical PathologyHelmholtz Zentrum München – German Research Center for Environmental HealthNeuherbergGermany
  6. 6.Department of Medicine IUniversity Hospital Munich, Campus Grosshadern, LMU MunichMunichGermany
  7. 7.German Center for Cardiovascular Research (DZHK)Partner Site Munich, Munich Heart Alliance (MHA)MunichGermany
  8. 8.Walter Brendel Center of Experimental Medicine (WBex)LMU MunichMunichGermany
  9. 9.Chair for Animal Physiology, Department of Veterinary SciencesLMU MunichMartinsriedGermany
  10. 10.Department of CardiologyErasmus University Medical Center RotterdamRotterdamThe Netherlands
  11. 11.Institute of Veterinary Pathology, Center for Clinical Veterinary MedicineLMU MunichMunichGermany

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