Unraveling the swine genome: Implications for human health

L.B. Schook
34th International Society for Animal Genetics Conference, July 28 - August 1, 2014, Xi'an, China


The pig (Sus scrofa) was first used in biomedical research in ancient Greece and has quickly grown into an important biomedical research tool over the past few decades. Their importance as a biomedical model is due to their anatomical, behavioral, genetic and physiological similarities with humans, as well as their availability, short generation interval and large litter size. Studies using pigs have been shown to be more predictive of therapeutic treatments in humans than rodent studies, and are currently being used to study a variety of human diseases including Huntington's, Alzheimer's and cardiovascular diseases.  Due to genomic and physiological similarities, the pig is emerging as a valuable translational biomedical research animal model.  Completion of the pig genome sequence, the ability to genetically modify and somatically clone provides the foundation for further development of validated porcine models. In addition, the similarity in size and physiology allows pigs to be used for many experimental approaches not feasible in mice. Research areas utilizing pigs range from neonatal development to translational models for cancer therapy. Increasing numbers of porcine models are being developed with the release of the swine genome sequence and the development of additional porcine genomic and epigenetic resources will further their use in biomedical research. The porcine genome provides the foundation for development of novel animal models to validate human conditions and to support clinical trials to expedite new drugs, devices and diagnostics.  Clearly, further refinement of the pig genome will be critical to fully exploiting the physiological characteristics of the pig to develop Quantitative Trait Nucleotide (QTN) causative for human diseases.  Also, essential will be the development of innovative bioinformatic tools that are linked to emerging new genetic modeling tools.  The opportunities are endless with validating existing models and rapidly testing QTN based hypotheses.