Apart from serving as a source of food, pigs are considered as the ideal models of modeling human diseases. This arises from the similarity in their anatomy and physiology with that of humans. The pig genome is three times closer to our genome that that of mice. Take the example of cystic fibrosis, the introduction of the mutation responsible for the disease in mice has not shown the exact course of the disease however, recent reports show the successful recapitulation of the disease in pig models. As there is a similarity between the cardiovascular system, the gastrointestinal tract, and the pancreas between pigs and humans, research on diseases and toxicology can be carried out on these models (Walters et al, 2013).
Given these advantages of using cells of swine-origin, scientists,Ding and team (2017) explored the relevance of pig muscle cells in the modeling of aging and Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). For example, DMD symptoms such as weakness and damaged mobility have been shown to be shown in the pig over rodents. The study of special cells called satellite cells that are involved in the repair of damaged muscles is of relevance to muscle disorders like DMD.
Researchers Jung and team (2013) developed a porcine fibroblast model of metabolic syndrome that is yet to be explored in detail. This disease manifests in the form of abnormal lipid levels, hyperglycemia and hypertension, among others. The expression of 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase type 1 (11β-HSD1) in swine fibroblasts shows the potential of using these cells to understand obesity and metabolic syndrome.
The repairing of articular cartilage defects looks at sources of alternative cellsto obtain a sufficient number of hyaline chondrocytes that can be transplanted to replace the defect tissues. Though iPS cells can be differentiated into autologous hyaline chondrocytes there are challenges in using these cells with the risk of teratoma formation. This brings in the direct conversion of somatic cells into cell types such as neurons or in this case cartilage cells. The introduction of c-Myc into swine fibroblasts generated homogenous, stable, hyaline cartilage-like cells without the formation of tumours according to research showing the potential of fibroblasts as a source of cartilage cells for cartilage diseases (Shi et al, 2019).
Walters, Eric M, and Randall S Prather. “Advancing swine models for human health and diseases.” Missouri medicine vol. 110,3 (2013): 212-5.
Ding, S., Wang, F., Liu, Y. et al. Characterization and isolation of highly purified porcine satellite cells. Cell Death Discov. 3, 17003 (2017).
Jung, E., An, B., Kim, Y., Jeong, Y., Hwang, W., &Jeung, E. (2013). Generation of porcine fibroblasts overexpressing 11β‑HSD1 with adipose tissue‑specific aP2 promoter as a porcine model of metabolic syndrome.Molecular Medicine Reports, 8, 751-756.
Shi, J., Zhang, T., Liu, W. et al. Direct conversion of pig fibroblasts to chondrocyte-like cells by c-Myc. Cell Death Discovery 5, 55 (2019).