What is the utility of porcine models to biomedical research?

What is the utility of porcine models to biomedical research?

Animal research has been a main tool to achieve great advances in Medicine, unachievable by other ways. Currently, we find a high number of vertebrate animals of different species used for scientific purposes, and among them we find the pig, which is used in the Center for Applied Biomedical Experimental Research (CREBA).

The pig has a great physiological and anatomical similarity to the human, and this has many advantages for biomedical research. Rodents are the most used species in this area; However, in some research fields, the information that can be extracted from them has been exhausted, and porcine models, as they are more similar animals, are a valuable alternative to be able to continue deepening.

Let’s look at some of these similarities:

  • The coronary vascularization of the pig is almost identical to that of humans, and therefore this animal is very useful as a cardiovascular model. The pre-existing collateral circulation is very small and it is relatively easy to induce infarcts experimentally. Furthermore, the growth of the heart and blood vessels from birth to 4 months is analogous to that of humans until mid-adolescence.
  • Porcine skin has a structure similar to that of the human; it has an epidermis-dermis rate, thickness and a quantity of hair similar to that of the human. Skin vascularization is also similar, although less. All of this makes pig skin a good model of immunopathological mechanisms and pharmacological intervention in burns, scarring and other skin disorders.

Thus, the pig is used in many and very diverse areas of research, such as transplants, surgery -for the study of new techniques-, cardiovascular, dermatological, degenerative, infectious or tumor diseases. They are also used for the validation of new medical devices.

On the other hand, the use of these animals is also essential in the training of medical specialists in surgical areas (e.g., general surgery, traumatology, urology, etc.), since it has been proven that it significantly reduces the learning curves of these professionals and, therefore, the quality of health care increases.

In summary, the porcine model provides various uses in biomedical research:

  • Achieve a progress of scientific knowledge.
  • Put into practice the knowledge acquired.
  • Develop and test potential forms of treatment.
  • Models for the study of a disease.

In order to carry out a research project with animals in the CREBA, the researchers must provide document with details about the objectives and methodology for the use of animals. This project is evaluated by the Ethics Committee for Animal Experimentation of CREBA, which is the responsible for providing compliance with current normative. In fact, the Spanish Real Decreto 53/2013 of 01 February 2013, establishes in its chapter VI, article 37, the creation of such committees in charge of animal welfare. Specifically, the Committee has the following functions[1]:

  • To write the reports requested by research staff and institutions about studies involving the use of animals for experimentation and other scientific purposes, including teaching. For this purpose, the qualification of the principal investigator and of the research team will be evaluated. In addition, the committee verifies that the project meets the following requirements:
  1. The study is justified from a scientific or educational point of view, or it must be done by legal or regulatory imposition.
  2. The goal of the study justifies the use of animals.
  3. The procedures have been designed to protect the animal welfare.
  • To ensure the ethical performing of the studies.
  • To ensure compliance with good research practices, and to manage conflicts generated by non-compliance.
  • To evaluate and report ethical conflicts that could lead to other documents such as scientific publications.
  • To arrange documents or reports on topics within its competence.
  • To coordinate its activity with that of similar committees of other institutions.
  • Any other functions assigned to it by current legislation.

[1] https://www.isciii.es/QueHacemos/Servicios/ComitesEtica/CEIyBA/Paginas/Funciones.aspx