Genetics company uses pigs to create model of human disease - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Genetics company uses pigs to create model of human disease

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Earlier this summer we told you the story of the Mohr family of Ute, Iowa traveling the state in hopes of finding answers.

Their ten year old grandson Taylor is battling a fatal neurodegenerative illness called Batten Disease.

Like other rare diseases of its kind, Batten Disease currently has no treatment or cure.

Researchers have made progress in studying and treating the disease in mice.

But one genetics company is using what they say is a more effective model for mimicking human disease- pigs.

"Pigs are much more similar to humans than rodent models are.  They're much more similar in size obviously, the metabolism of a pig is much more similar," said Dr. John Swart, director of Exemplar Genetics.

Exemplar Genetics, which has a lab in Coralville,  has recently entered into an agreement with a group of researchers to develop a model to study Huntington's disease- another rare neurodegenerative disease usually beginning to affect people in their late 30's.

"It's really a challenging disease to deal with and there's not a good model today.  One of the barriers to drug development is to have that tool and so the tool will allow these research organizations to develop these therapies much more quickly," Swart said.

The company has had recent success with its models.

In fact, it was a new model created by Exemplar Genetics that actually led to a breakthrough  by University of Iowa researchers in finding effective therapies for cystic fibrosis.

It's the hope that a new model will help lead to many more new discoveries and help families like the Mohrs who are coping with a devastating diagnosis.

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