Humans and pigs are biologically similar enough for research that the latter help make medical breakthroughs to help the former.
But a new project at Maryland’s Agricultural Research Services is looking at pigs in a way aimed at promoting both human and animal health.
The work is being done by nutritionist Harry Dawson and microbiologist Gloria Solano-Aguilar, who are studying the effect of nutrition on immune and inflammatory responses at the ARS’s Beltzville Human Nutrition Research Center.
According to the USDA’s Ag Research Magazine, Dawson developed the Porcine Translational Research Database of genes and proteins to compare with those predominantly studied in humans and rodents.
Dawson’s research found that “humans share far more immune-system-related genes and proteins with pigs than they do with mice,” the magazine said. The testing gives researchers crucial tools for measuring porcine immune response, and show pigs are a good species for additional testing.
Pigs and Obesity
Meanwhile, Solano-Aguilar’s research looked at how pigs can serve as a model for human obesity studies. Working with Kati Hanhineva of the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio, the study looked at metabolic changes in pig tissues and biofluids of pigs on a high-fat diet.
The researchers looked at juvenile pigs as a model for childhood obesity.
“This is an important area because it is generally difficult to evaluate obesity-related metabolic disturbances in children,” Solano-Aguilar told Ag Research.
The researchers looked at metabolic changes in pig liver, pancreas brain and intestinal tissue. They wanted to compare whether the changes in the tissue were present in the pig’s urine and plasma, fluids typically collected in human clinical studies.
The pigs were fed either a maintenance diet or a high-fat diet. The researchers found changes in lipid metabolites in all tissue samples from the high-fat diet pigs. Some tissue-dependent changes were not shown in the biofluids.
Using pigs for biomedical research was useful for studying metabolic effects triggered by a high-fat diet, said Joseph Urban, a coauthor at the BHNRC laboratory.
“Biofluids give us part of the picture,” Urban says, “but being able to look at organ tissue helped us target changes that are indicative of both disease and poor response to diet.”
For nearly three decades, Animal Biotech has been helping advance this type of work by providing high quality porcine research models and tissues to biomedical researchers.
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