Pigs have been bred with cystic fibrosis, providing scientists with a powerful animal model that will aid the development of new treatments for the incurable condition.
The creation of the pigs, using genetic engineering and cloning technologies, removes one of the biggest barriers to research into cystic fibrosis.
While mice and other animals have previously been modified with the genetic mutation that causes the inherited disorder, they do not develop the same symptoms as humans and are thus useless for most experiments. As a result, scientists have had few tools for investigation short of testing new treatments on people with the disease.
“Right now, if you want to do experiments to find treatments or therapies for the lung disease that is fatal for people with cystic fibrosis, you would have to experiment on kids that have cystic fibrosis,” said Randy Prather, Professor of Reproductive Biology at the University of Missouri, a leader of the research team that bred the pigs.
Pigs were chosen for the research because they are much more similar in physiology, size, lifespan, anatomy and genetics to humans than mice.