Of Pigs and Men: different looks, but lots in common

Pigs have become an important veterinary species for research purposes. The economic value of pigs in agriculture warrants more research on health and welfare of pigs. Better knowledge on how to raise and breed healthy domestic pigs without use of antibiotics requires a better understanding of the porcine immune system. This knowledge can be used to develop alternative strategies to improve pig health such as special diets.

Studying the porcine immune system
Recently we have invested in tools to study the porcine immune system. We now have assays up and running to monitor both the innate and the adaptive immune system. This includes assays to determine presence and functions of natural killers cells, dendritic cells, T cells and B cells. Major experience in immunology of several other veterinary species and availability of up to date equipment strongly supported our entry in the porcine research field.

Model for human diseases
With these state-of-the-art tools we are able to monitor vaccine responses and study the interaction of pathogens and the porcine immune system. Knowledge on immune parameters that are associated with protection against disease or infection is essential for the development of effective vaccines. Since pigs are nowadays widely appreciated as model for certain human diseases, increased knowledge on the immune system in pigs may also contribute to human vaccine development.

Personalised tumor treatment
In one of our projects we study the effect of feed interventions on the development of the immune system and immune competence in piglets. Can we improve gut problems and respiratory problems in piglets by giving them a special diet? We are also involved in a study in which pigs are vaccinated by tattooing in order to induce (protective) CD8+ T cell responses. In this study pigs are a model for a human disease and the aim is to use this type of vaccination as a future tool for personalised tumor treatment in man.

Group members
Research and Education Assistant