On the emerging role of rabbit as human disease model and the instrumental role of novel transgenic tools

Transgenic Res. 2012 Aug;21(4):699-713. doi: 10.1007/s11248-012-9599-x. Epub 2012 Mar 2.


The laboratory rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus) is widely used as a model for human diseases, because of its size, which permits non-lethal monitoring of physiological changes and similar disease characteristics. Novel transgenic tools such as, the zinc finger nuclease method and the sleeping beauty transposon mediated or BAC transgenesis were recently adapted to the laboratory rabbit and opened new opportunities in precise tissue and developmental stage specific gene expression/silencing, coupled with increased transgenic efficiencies. Many facets of human development and diseases cannot be investigated in rodents. This is especially true for early prenatal development, its long-lasting effects on health and complex disorders, and some economically important diseases such as atherosclerosis or cardiovascular diseases. The first transgenic rabbits models of arrhythmogenesis mimic human cardiac diseases much better than transgenic mice and hereby underline the importance of non-mouse models. Another emerging field is epigenetic reprogramming and pathogenic mechanisms in diabetic pregnancy, where rabbit models are indispensable. Beyond that rabbit is used for decades as major source of polyclonal antibodies and recently in monoclonal antibody production. Alteration of its genome to increase the efficiency and value of the antibodies by humanization of the immunoglobulin genes, or by increasing the expression of a special receptor (Fc receptor) that augments humoral immune response is a current demand.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases* / pathology
  • DNA Transposable Elements / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Embryonic Development*
  • Embryonic Stem Cells
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Rabbits


  • DNA Transposable Elements