The dominant nature of the Huntington's disease gene mutation has allowed genetic models to be developed in multiple species, with the mutation causing an abnormal neurological phenotype in all animals in which it is expressed. Many different rodent models have been generated. The most widely used of these, the transgenic R6/2 mouse, carries the mutation in a fragment of the human huntingtin gene and has a rapidly progressive and fatal neurological phenotype with many relevant pathological changes. Nevertheless, their rapid decline has been frequently questioned in the context of a disease that takes years to manifest in humans, and strenuous efforts have been made to make rodent models that are genetically more 'relevant' to the human condition, including full length huntingtin gene transgenic and knock-in mice. While there is no doubt that we have learned, and continue to learn much from rodent models, their usefulness is limited by two species constraints. First, the brains of rodents differ significantly from humans in both their small size and their neuroanatomical organization. Second, rodents have much shorter lifespans than humans. Here, we review new approaches taken to these challenges in the development of models of Huntington's disease in large brained, long-lived animals. We discuss the need for such models, and how they might be used to fill specific niches in preclinical Huntington's disease research, particularly in testing gene-based therapeutics. We discuss the advantages and disadvantages of animals in which the prodromal period of disease extends over a long time span. We suggest that there is considerable 'value added' for large animal models in preclinical Huntington's disease research.
Keywords: CAG repeat; circadian; minipig; monkey; neurodegeneration; non-human primate; polyglutamine; sheep; sleep.