Scientists create pig model of Huntington’s disease

Chinese team think their research will fill an important gap as the pattern of neurodegeneration is almost the same in pigs as in humans with Huntington’s disease

A team of Chinese scientists has established a pig model of Huntington’s disease (HD) using gene-editing technology, bringing science an important step closer to curing neurodegenerative diseases.

The research was published on Cell. Researchers used the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technique to introduce a segment of the human gene that causes HD into pig fibroblast cells.

Then somatic cell nuclear transfer generated pig embryos carrying this genetic alteration.

In comparison with widely used genetically modified mice, the pig HD model has an edge in modelling neurodegenerative diseases because it more closely matches the symptoms of the human disease, said co-senior author Li Shihua, a professor of human genetics at the Emory University School of Medicine in the US city of Atlanta.

“We think the pig model will fill an important gap,” Prof Li said. “In pigs, the pattern of neurodegeneration is almost the same as in humans, and there have been several treatments tested in mouse models that didn’t translate to humans.”

A new hope: There is no cure for Huntington’s, partly because of the lack of matchable animal models for drug testing Credit: VGC

In addition, treatments for affected nervous system tissues could be better tested in pigs because their size is closer to that of humans, she said.

Prof Li collaborated with her colleagues at Jinan University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, in the southern Chinese province of Guangdong. The pigs are now housed in Guangzhou.

The generation of the HD pig model will give an impetus to research and development in pharmaceuticals based on large-animal disease models and speed progress in developing new drugs for degenerative diseases, according to the research team.

Searching for a cure: Scientists believe the pig model will fill an important gap in researching the diseaseCredit: VGC

Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, motor neurone disease and the like are neurodegenerative diseases that severely threaten human health.

These inherited diseases manifest themselves and become increasingly serious as people age. There is no cure, partly because of the lack of matchable animal models for drug testing.

This article was originally produced and published by China Daily. View the original article at


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