A sheep model of cystic fibrosis generated by CRISPR/Cas9 disruption of the CFTR gene

JCI Insight. 2018 Oct 4;3(19):e123529. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.123529.


Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease caused by mutations in the CF transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) gene. The major cause of limited life span in CF patients is progressive lung disease. CF models have been generated in 4 species (mice, rats, ferrets, and pigs) to enhance our understanding of the CF pathogenesis. Sheep may be a particularly relevant animal to model CF in humans due to the similarities in lung anatomy and development in the two species. Here, we describe the generation of a sheep model for CF using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing and somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) techniques. We generated cells with CFTR gene disruption and used them for production of CFTR-/- and CFTR+/- lambs. The newborn CFTR-/- sheep developed severe disease consistent with CF pathology in humans. Of particular relevance were pancreatic fibrosis, intestinal obstruction, and absence of the vas deferens. Also, substantial liver and gallbladder disease may reflect CF liver disease that is evident in humans. The phenotype of CFTR-/- sheep suggests this large animal model will be a useful resource to advance the development of new CF therapeutics. Moreover, the generation of specific human CF disease-associated mutations in sheep may advance personalized medicine for this common genetic disorder.

Keywords: Development; Genetic diseases; Genetics.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / genetics*
  • Cystic Fibrosis / pathology
  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator / genetics*
  • Disease Models, Animal*
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Gallbladder / pathology
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Humans
  • Liver / pathology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Male
  • Nuclear Transfer Techniques
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Sheep*
  • Species Specificity


  • Cystic Fibrosis Transmembrane Conductance Regulator