Genetically modified pig models for neurodegenerative disorders

J Pathol. 2016 Jan;238(2):267-87. doi: 10.1002/path.4654. Epub 2015 Nov 28.


Increasing incidence of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease has become one of the most challenging health issues in ageing humans. One approach to combat this is to generate genetically modified animal models of neurodegenerative disorders for studying pathogenesis, prognosis, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Owing to the genetic, anatomic, physiologic, pathologic, and neurologic similarities between pigs and humans, genetically modified pig models of neurodegenerative disorders have been attractive large animal models to bridge the gap of preclinical investigations between rodents and humans. In this review, we provide a neuroanatomical overview in pigs and summarize and discuss the generation of genetically modified pig models of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer's diseases, Huntington's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, spinal muscular atrophy, and ataxia-telangiectasia. We also highlight how non-invasive bioimaging technologies such as positron emission tomography (PET), computer tomography (CT), and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and behavioural testing have been applied to characterize neurodegenerative pig models. We further propose a multiplex genome editing and preterm recloning (MAP) approach by using the rapid growth of the ground-breaking precision genome editing technology CRISPR/Cas9 and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). With this approach, we hope to shorten the temporal requirement in generating multiple transgenic pigs, increase the survival rate of founder pigs, and generate genetically modified pigs that will more closely resemble the disease-causing mutations and recapitulate pathological features of human conditions.

Keywords: Alzheimer's diseases; CRISPR/Cas9; Huntington's disease; Parkinson's disease; amyotrophic lateral sclerosis; ataxia-telangiectasia; bioimaging; genetically modified pigs; handmade cloning (HMC); neurodegeneration; neurodegenerative disorders; somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT); spinal muscular atrophy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified / genetics*
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / genetics*
  • Nuclear Transfer Techniques
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Swine / anatomy & histology
  • Swine / genetics*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed