Animal models of type 1 diabetes remain essential tools for investigation of the etiology and pathogenesis of the disease and, importantly, for the development of effective new treatments. Although a range of well-characterized and widely used models of type 1 diabetes in rodents are currently available, large animal models are a valuable complement to rodent models for both physiological and practical reasons. The pig is very useful in many aspects as a model for human physiology and pathophysiology because many organ systems of this species, as well as physiological and pathophysiological responses, resemble those of the human. The Göttingen minipig is particularly suitable for long-term studies because of its inherent small size and ease of handling, even at full maturity. Of particular relevance to the field of type 1 diabetes are the many similarities evident between humans and pigs with regard to pharmacokinetics of compounds after subcutaneous administration, structure and function of the gastrointestinal tract, morphology of the pancreas, and the overall metabolic status of the two species. Because spontaneous type 1-like diabetes is very rare in pigs, a model of the condition must be induced experimentally, either surgically or chemically. This process is discussed, and the use of the pig as a model in islet transplantation and diabetic complications is briefly summarized.
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