Cardiovascular Development and Congenital Heart Disease Modeling in the Pig


Background Modeling cardiovascular diseases in mice has provided invaluable insights into the cause of congenital heart disease. However, the small size of the mouse heart has precluded translational studies. Given current high-efficiency gene editing, congenital heart disease modeling in other species is possible. The pig is advantageous given its cardiac anatomy, physiology, and size are similar to human infants. We profiled pig cardiovascular development and generated genetically edited pigs with congenital heart defects. Methods and Results Pig conceptuses and fetuses were collected spanning 7 stages (day 20 to birth at day 115), with at least 3 embryos analyzed per stage. A combination of magnetic resonance imaging and 3-dimensional histological reconstructions with episcopic confocal microscopy were conducted. Gross dissections were performed in late-stage or term fetuses by using sequential segmental analysis of the atrial, ventricular, and arterial segments. At day 20, the heart has looped, forming a common atria and ventricle and an undivided outflow tract. Cardiac morphogenesis progressed rapidly, with atrial and outflow septation evident by day 26 and ventricular septation completed by day 30. The outflow and atrioventricular cushions seen at day 20 undergo remodeling to form mature valves, a process continuing beyond day 42. Genetically edited pigs generated with mutation in chromatin modifier SAP130 exhibited tricuspid dysplasia, with tricuspid atresia associated with early embryonic lethality. Conclusions The major events in pig cardiac morphogenesis are largely complete by day 30. The developmental profile is similar to human and mouse, indicating gene edited pigs may provide new opportunities for preclinical studies focused on outcome improvements for congenital heart disease.

Keywords: CRISPR gene editing; congenital heart disease; heart development; pig model.

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