Ataxia telangiectasia (AT) is a progressive multisystem disorder caused by mutations in the AT-mutated (ATM) gene. AT is a neurodegenerative disease primarily characterized by cerebellar degeneration in children leading to motor impairment. The disease progresses with other clinical manifestations including oculocutaneous telangiectasia, immune disorders, increased susceptibly to cancer and respiratory infections. Although genetic investigations and physiological models have established the linkage of ATM with AT onset, the mechanisms linking ATM to neurodegeneration remain undetermined, hindering therapeutic development. Several murine models of AT have been successfully generated showing some of the clinical manifestations of the disease, however they do not fully recapitulate the hallmark neurological phenotype, thus highlighting the need for a more suitable animal model. We engineered a novel porcine model of AT to better phenocopy the disease and bridge the gap between human and current animal models. The initial characterization of AT pigs revealed early cerebellar lesions including loss of Purkinje cells (PCs) and altered cytoarchitecture suggesting a developmental etiology for AT and could advocate for early therapies for AT patients. In addition, similar to patients, AT pigs show growth retardation and develop motor deficit phenotypes. By using the porcine system to model human AT, we established the first animal model showing PC loss and motor features of the human disease. The novel AT pig provides new opportunities to unmask functions and roles of ATM in AT disease and in physiological conditions.
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