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Now, pig model to help find treatment for debilitating eye disease

Washington, Fri, 09 Mar 2012 ANI

Washington, Mar 9 (ANI): A genetically modified pig, newly developed by scientists, could help in the development of improved treatments and perhaps even a cure for retinitis pigmentosa (RP).


The disease affects about 1 in 4000 Americans and can cause retinal degeneration, which leads to night blindness, loss of peripheral vision, and ultimately total vision loss.


The pig model was developed by researchers in the University of Louisville Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences and at the National Swine Resource and Research Center at the University of Missouri.


Researchers used an abnormal gene, RHO P23H, the most common cause of autosomal dominant RP, in which affected individuals have a 50/50 chance of passing the disease on to their children.


They inserted the mutant gene into the nucleus of miniature pig embryos, which were then transferred into surrogate mothers for gestation. The offspring expressed the mutant gene that causes RP and their eyes showed classic features of the eye disease.


This animal model will now be used to screen the efficacy of various novel therapies for this disease, including stem cell transplantation, drug therapy, gene therapy and the retinal prosthesis.


"We now have a model of RP that mimics human disease in a large animal," said Henry J Kaplan, MD, Evans Professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Louisville, and senior investigator on the study.


"These pigs will be on the front line of the development of new therapies for this devastating disease," he said.


The results of the study were published in the January 2012 issue of the journal Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science. (ANI)


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