Post-mortem findings in cloned and transgenic piglets dead before weaning

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  • Mette Schmidt, Department of Veterinary Reproduction and Obstetrics, Faculty of Life Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Kjeld Dahl Winther, Danish Agriculture and Food Council, Knowledge Center on Pig Production, Denmark
  • Jan O Secher, Department of Large Animal Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Henrik Callesen
Important factors contributing to the well-known high mortality of piglets produced by SCNT are gross malformations of vital organs. The aim of the present retrospective study was to describe malformations found in cloned piglets, transgenic or not, dying or culled before weaning on Day 28. Large White (LW) embryos were transferred to 78 LW recipients, while 72 recipients received Göttingen embryos (67 transgenic and five not transgenic) and 56 received Yucatan embryos (43 transgenic and 13 not transgenic). Overall pregnancy rate was 76%, and there were more abortions in recipients with minipig embryos than in those with LW embryos (26% and 24% vs. 6%). Piglets (n = 815) were born from 128 sows with 6.5 ± 0.4 full-born piglets per litter. The overall rate of stillborn piglets was 21% of all born with the number of stillborn piglets ranging from one to nine in a litter. The mortality of the surviving piglets during the first month was 48%. Thus, altogether 58% of the full-born piglets died before weaning. In 87 of the 128 litters (68%), one to 12 of the piglets showed major or minor malformations. Malformations were found in 232 piglets (29.5% of all born). A single malformation was registered in 152 piglets, but several piglets showed two (n = 58) or more (n = 23) malformations (7.4% and 2.8% of all born, respectively). A significantly higher malformation rate was found in transgenic Göttingen and Yucatan piglets (32% and 46% of all born, respectively) than in nontransgenic LW (17%). There was a gender difference in the transgenic minipigs because male piglets had a higher rate of malformations (49.1%) than females (29.7%). The most common defects in the cloned piglets were in the digestive (12.2%), circulatory (9.4%), reproductive (11.3%), and musculoskeletal (9.1%) systems. Malformations of the musculoskeletal system were most frequent in Göttingen (16.3% vs. approximately 5.5% in the two other breeds), whereas abnormal cardiopulmonary systems were most frequent in Yucatan piglets (26.9% vs. 2.1% in LW and 5.3% in Göttingen). In conclusion, these results show that pig cloning results in a considerable loss of piglets and that many of these can be related to various malformations that all are also seen in noncloned piglets. Because approximately half of the cloned piglets still survive, even with eventual unknown minor malformations, use of pigs as models for human diseases is still realistic. However, continued efforts are needed to further reduce the level of malformations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTheriogenology
Volume84
Issue6
Pages (from-to)1014-1023
ISSN0093-691X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2015

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