The workshop focused particularly on pigs and dogs because these two animals are quite similar in scale and anatomy to humans, while serving quite complementary functions. Dogs could be used as models for studying the immediate consequences of infectious disease, while pigs could be genetically engineered to mimic certain human conditions, such as deficiencies in the immune system. In such cases pigs would be used like mice are at present to model certain aspects of human immunity or metabolic disorder, but with the advantage of being closer to us in many respects.
"A possible idea is the generation of pigs with a humanised immune system," said Schnieke. "The proof of principle has been shown in the mouse. Immune-deficient mice can be reconstituted with human immune cells and can be used to study immune reactions, for example against tissue xenografts (transplantation of tissue between species, such as pig to human). In theory this could also be possible in pigs. Therefore the generation of immune-deficient pigs is an important goal."
But further funding is required to develop suitable pig models, possibly within a European pig clinic. The workshop also discussed setting up smaller collaborative projects focussed on specific disease areas, with a view to obtaining funding from the ESF. A task force was established to pursue these goals.
|Contact: Angelika Schnieke|
European Science Foundation