Piglets could ‘fill an important gap’ in Huntington’s disease research

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A newly established pig model of Huntington’s disease (HD) could provide researchers a more practical way of testing treatment for the inherited neurodegenerative disease.

Using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology, a team of Chinese scientists introduced a segment of a human gene that causes Huntington’s into pig fibroblast cells, the most common cells of connective tissue in animals. Researchers then used somatic cell nuclear transfer, a form of reproductive cloning, to produce pig embryos that carried the genetic alteration.

Delivery of treatments to affected nervous system tissues can be better tested in pigs, as they are closer in size to humans, compared with mice – which is often genetically modified to model neurodegenerative diseases. Pigs also offer advantages of faster breeding and larger litter sizes, the researchers said.

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The genetically-altered pigs showed symptoms of movement problems, as well as respiratory difficulties that resemble those experienced by humans with HD and are not seen in mouse models of HD, according to the study.

In addition, the pigs show degeneration of the striatum, the region of the brain most affected by HD in humans, more than other regions of the brain. The striatum a critical component for voluntary motor control.

‘We think the pig model will fill an important gap,’ said co-author Li Shihua in a press release by Emory University.

Read full, original post: Can these cute piglets lead to a cure for Huntington’s? Scientists create cloned pigs to study devastating disease

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