Minipigs, what are miniature pigs?

Minipigs, what are miniature pigs?

The biomedic researchers use the porcine model in the experimentation process, due to its physical, physiological and behavioral similarity with the human. However, this model has some disadvantages, such as the size of the animals and the high costs of housing and care. Conventional pigs reach weights of up to 200 kg in adulthood, which is too different from usual human weight, as well as unmanageable for researchers. For this reason, young pigs are frequently used, due to their weights are manageable and similar to humans. However, in many studies such animals are not appropriate, because they have not reached maturity, and therefore their results may not be comparable to the adult human. Therefore, specific pig models were created for research: miniature pigs or minipigs.

Minipigs have specific gene profiles, and their weight stabilizes at approximately 35 kg in adulthood, which makes work much easier. Specifically, many benefits derive from the reducing of animal size; e.g.:

  • Easier handling and housing of animals.
  • Decreased feed costs.
  • Decrease in the costs of pharmacological treatments.
  • Occupancy of less space.

The relatively little size of pigs makes them particularly interesting for experimental or training surgery. In addition, miniature pigs often have metabolic diseases (obesity, diabetes, and cholesterol-related heart problems) and infectious diseases (immune response), which allow to carry out studies for new preventive and therapeutic approaches.

There are many studies about the utility of the minipig. For example, the Rethink project (“Mini pigs as a model for the analysis of the toxicity of new medicines and chemicals: impact assessment”), in whcih European experts analyzed the utility of the minipig as a tool for toxicity testing. Project members assessed both animal welfare and ethical and safety aspects. In addition, they assessed the comparative value of mini pig as a model for product development and its economic impact[1].

To carry out research projects using this animal or any other animal model with scientific purposes, it is necessary the acceptation by local animal ethics committees, and to follow the protocols established by the authorities.