Pigs are increasingly important animals for modeling human pediatric nutrition and gastroenterology and complementing mechanistic studies in rodents. The comparative advantages in size and physiology of the neonatal pig have led to new translational and clinically relevant models of important diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and liver in premature infants. Studies in pigs have established the essential roles of prematurity, microbial colonization, and enteral nutrition in the pathogenesis of necrotizing enterocolitis. Studies in neonatal pigs have demonstrated the intestinal trophic effects of akey gut hormone, glucagon-like peptide 2 (GLP-2), and its role in the intestinal adaptation process and efficacy in the treatment of short bowel syndrome. Further, pigs have been instrumental in elucidating the physiology of parenteral nutrition-associated liver disease and the means by which phytosterols, fibroblast growth factor 19, and a new generation of lipid emulsions may modify disease. The premature pig will continue to be a valuable model in the development of optimal infant diets (donor human milk, colostrum), specific milk bioactives (arginine, growth factors), gut microbiota modifiers (pre-, pro-, and antibiotics), pharmaceutical drugs (GLP-2 analogs, FXR agonists), and novel diagnostic tools (near-infrared spectroscopy) to prevent and treat these pediatric diseases.
Keywords: glucagon-like peptide 2; intestinal growth; necrotizing enterocolitis; parenteral lipid emulsions; premature infants; short bowel syndrome; total parenteral nutrition.