Modern methods of biomedicine - up to the generation of transgenic animals - make farm animals increasingly attractive as model systems for research into zoonotic infectious diseases. What are the potential applications of cattle, pigs & co. as farm animal models in animal disease and zoonosis research? The different facets of this question were explained by more than 70 experts at the workshop Integrated Farm Animal Models on 5 October 2011 in Berlin, hosted by the Institute of Molecular Pathogenesis of the Friedrich-Loeffler-Institute (FLI) and the National Research Platform for Zoonoses.
The use of farm animals as model animals in research is necessary for the study of numerous zoonotic pathogens, but also poses challenges. In a first step, the event highlighted the current research needs in the context of zoonotic pathogens. The different research questions in which farm animals are already used as model systems were presented and discussed intensively. It became clear that there is still a high demand for research on immunological questions in the different farm animal models. Many questions that have already been answered for other model organisms, such as the mouse, are still open for many farm animals. Bernd Kaspers from the LMU Munich summed it up as follows: "The chicken is not a mouse with feathers".
The scientists agreed that central questions of zoonoses research cannot be adequately investigated with the mouse as the sole model system. Due to the similarity in physiology and anatomy, farm animal models are particularly valuable in the preclinical testing of new agents/vaccines and in research on virulence & adaptation of zoonotic pathogens.
The aim of the workshop was to initiate long-term interdisciplinary research collaborations involving farm animals as model systems. The participants agreed that the workshop provided a good overview of the possible applications of farm animals as model systems and thus marked the beginning of an intensification of the collaboration as well as future collaborative projects.
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