Complications of prematurity often disrupt normal brain development and/or cause direct damage to the developing brain, resulting in poor neurodevelopmental outcomes. Physiologically relevant animal models of perinatal brain injury can advance our understanding of these influences and thereby provide opportunities to develop therapies and improve long-term outcomes. While there are advantages to currently available small animal models, there are also significant drawbacks that have limited translation of research findings to humans. Large animal models such as newborn pig, sheep and nonhuman primates have complex brain development more similar to humans, but these animals are expensive, and developmental testing of sheep and piglets is limited. Ferrets (Mustela putorius furo) are born lissencephalic and undergo postnatal cortical folding to form complex gyrencephalic brains. This review examines whether ferrets might provide a novel intermediate animal model of neonatal brain disease that has the benefit of a gyrified, altricial brain in a small animal. It summarizes attributes of ferret brain growth and development that make it an appealing animal in which to model perinatal brain injury. We postulate that because of their innate characteristics, ferrets have great potential in neonatal neurodevelopmental studies.
Keywords: Animal model; Ferrets; Neurodevelopment; Neurogenesis; Perinatal brain injury.
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