New animal models of cystic fibrosis: what are they teaching us?

Curr Opin Pulm Med. 2011 Nov;17(6):478-83. doi: 10.1097/MCP.0b013e32834b14c9.


Purpose of review: Cystic fibrosis is the first human genetic disease to benefit from the directed engineering of three different species of animal models (mice, pigs, and ferrets). Recent studies on the cystic fibrosis pig and ferret models are providing new information about the pathophysiology of cystic fibrosis in various organ systems. Additionally, new conditional cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) knockout mice are teaching unexpected lessons about CFTR function in surprising cellular locations. Comparisons between these animal models and the human condition are key to dissecting the complexities of disease pathophysiology in cystic fibrosis.

Recent findings: Cystic fibrosis pigs and ferrets have provided new models to study the spontaneous development of disease in the lung and pancreas, two organs that are largely spared overt spontaneous disease in cystic fibrosis mice. New cystic fibrosis mouse models are now interrogating CFTR functions involved in growth and inflammation at an organ-based level using conditional knockout technology. Together, these models are providing new insights on the human condition.

Summary: Basic and clinical cystic fibrosis research will benefit greatly from the comparative pathophysiology of cystic fibrosis mice, pigs, and ferrets. Both similarities and differences between these three cystic fibrosis models will inform pathophysiologically important mechanisms of CFTR function in humans and aid in the development of both organ-specific and general therapies for cystic fibrosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cystic Fibrosis / genetics
  • Cystic Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator* / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Ferrets
  • Humans
  • Lung / pathology*
  • Mice
  • Pancreas / pathology*
  • Swine


  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator