The Pig Model


Clinical studies on highly sensitive patients, such as preterm infants or patients receiving chemotherapy, are subdued to many limitations. In order to study such conditions, science use animal models. Pigs are one of the most used animal models today due to the close similarity of physiological, metabolic, anatomical, and genetic traits to humans.



The project NEOMUNE (2013-2017) use the internatinally recognized pig model developed by Sangild et al. (2013) to help identify how bacteria, microflora, and the milk diet affected health, growth, digestion, development and infections in the gastrointestinal tract in preterm infants. The follow-up project NEOCOL (2017-2022) focus on the results from NEOMUNE in order to develop a colostrum-based medication for preterm infants in order to prevent diseases in the gastrointestinal system.


Preterm infants and piglets

Preterm piglets are a robust translational model of gastrointestinal immaturity in preterm infants. The model provides unique experimental opportunities due to the similarities between piglets and infants in gastrointestinal anatomy, physiology, organ development, nutrition, gut microbiota, and body size, which allow performance of clinical interventions similar to those performed on preterm infants (Sangild et al., 2013). Another important aspect of the use of preterm piglets as models is that they develop necrotizing enterocolitis spontaneously, like preterm infants (Oosterloo et al., 2014).The preterm pig model can also be used in relation to weak term piglets, as the symptoms between the two groups are quite similar, and results obtained from preterm piglet models can thus provide critical knowledge on the adaptations and survival of the weak term piglets (Sangild et al., 2013).


Models for chemotherapy-induced toxicity

Researchers have also successfully developed pig models to study toxicity from chemotherapy. Recently, a pig model has been developed for studying the toxic effects from chemotherapy-induced gastrointestinal, and to test colostrum as potential minimal enteral treatment (Shen, 2016).


Animal models

Clinical studies on highly sensitive patient populations, such as preterm infants or patients receiving chemotherapy, are subdued to many limitations due to the high demands of minimizing risks and complications, practical and logistic challenges, limited patient number, and ethical aspects. Thus, scientific research use animal models to study disease conditions, physiological complications and investigating therapeutic strategies that may afterwards be applied to specific patient groups (Shook et al., 2005).


Pig models

Pigs are one of the most used animal models today due to the close similarity of physiological, metabolic, anatomical, and genetic traits to humans. Today, they are used in numerous research areas, such as gastroenterology, immunology, infectious diseases, neonatology, neurology, nutrition, oncology, surgery, and toxicology (Miller & Ullrey, 1987; Shook et al., 2005; Heinritz et al., 2013).The similarity in physiology and size to humans allows pigs to be used for clinically identically experimental setup, interventions and procedures in order to establish best practice. As they have proven to be very robust models, knowledge generated from porcine models is very likely to lead to viable human treatments. Other positive properties are their broad availability, short generation time, and large litter size (Shook et al., 2005).




Heinritz, S. N., Mosenthin, R. & Weiss, E. (2013) Use of pigs as a potential model for research into dietary modulation of the human gut microbiota. Nutrition Research Reviews, 26(2), 191-209. doi: 10.1017/S0954422413000152. Miller, E. R. & Ullrey, D. E. (1987) The pig as a model for human nutrition. Annual Review of Nutrition, 7, 361-382.

Oosterloo, B. C., Premkumar, M., Stoll, B., Olutoye, O., Thymann, T., Sangild, P. T. & Burrin, D. G., (2014) Dual purpose use of preterm piglets as model of pediatric GI disease. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 159, 156-165.

Sangild, P. T., Thymann, T., Schmidt, M., Stoll, B., Burrin, D. G. & Buddington, R. K. (2013) Invited review: The preterm pig as a model in pediatric gastroenterology. Journal of Animal Science, 91(10), 4713-4729. 

Shen, R. L. (2016) colostrum for the compromised gut in pediatric pig models. PhD thesis. Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen.

Shook, L. B., Collares, T. V., Darfour-Oduro, K. A., De, A. K., Rund, L. A., Schachtschneider, K. M. & Seixas, F. K. (2015) Unraveling the swine genome: implications for human health. Annual Review of Animal Biosciences, 3, 219-244.