Seven piglets have seen the light of day with the prospect of developing Alzheimer's disease at the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences at the University of Aarhus.
The goal is to glean knowledge about the disease with the aim of preventing and treating it in humans.
The seven new born piglets were born on 28 August 2007 in the faculty's farrowing house.
The pigs have been brought about with the aid of research that makes it possible to put a gene for Alzheimer's disease into pig cells and thus create so-called transgenic cells.
This way the genetically programmed pigs can develop Alzheimer's disease, so they can be used to gain more knowledge about the disease with the aim of prevention and treatment of the ailment in humans.
Scientist Peter M. Kragh said, "The technique is established and we know it works. We have practised using the new cloning technique, 'handmade cloning', on normal pigs for a year now and at the same time we have prepared the transgenic cells."
Kragh works at the department of genetics and biotechnology at the faculty of agricultural sciences, University of Aarhus.
The research had been carried out in close collaboration with the Institute of Human Genetics at the Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Aarhus, and the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Copenhagen.
"We don't know for sure if the pigs will develop the disease, but we expect them to do so within the first year," says Kragh.
"Pigs and humans are genetically quite similar and it is therefore likely that the pig can develop genetic diseases that are otherwise only seen in humans."
The goal of the project is to diagnose Alzheimer's disease earlier, i.e. before the clinical symptoms with behavioural changes show up, and to end up being able to find and test various treatments.
The scientists will be setting up research designs that will enable them to test if the pigs show early symptoms, such as loss of smell or memory loss.
â€¢ University of Aarhus
â€¢ University of Copenhagen
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