SALAAM kick-off meeting in Munich: thinking big (the important role of large animal models)

SALAAM kick-off meeting in Munich: 15-17 December 2014
SALAAM kick-off meeting in Munich: 15-17 December 2014

About a month ago, shortly before the season break, and very timely to enjoy its Christmas Market (Weihnachtsmarkt), the kick-off meeting of the Project SALAAM (Sharing Advances on Large Animal Models) took place in Munich (Germany), 15-17 December 2014, beautifully organized by Eckhard Wolf and Pascale Chavatte-Palmer, Chair and Co-Chair of this EU-COST Action BM1308. This conference, open to any interested researcher in the field, represented the official launch of the SALAAM project, to discuss about the role of large animal models in Translational Medicine, “Bridging the Gap between Basic and Clinical Research”, as indicated in the SALAAM logo. During these three days, about 120 scientists, including researchers not initially associated with SALAAM (including several ISTT members), gathered at the Gene Center, LMU Munich, to share their views about the role of large animal models in biomedicine.

The meeting started with a welcome address by Eckhard Wolf (LMU, Munich, Chair of SALAAM) who set the stage and underlined the need to use appropriate animal models for succeeding in translational research. In the past, large amount of resources have been devoted to rodents, mostly mice, in biomedicine, where mouse models have become instrumental for the current understanding of how most of our genes work and greatly facilitated the progress in the post-genomic era. However, in spite of mice being widely used in Biomedicine to model human diseases, often mice fail to accurately reproduce the features associated with a given human pathology. Therefore there is an urgent need to develop non-rodent animal models that would mimic aspects of human anatomy and human physiology more closely. Pigs, small ruminants and rabbits appear to be excellent candidates to follow up the preliminary discoveries made in mice, and they are the main purpose of the SALAAM initiative, through all the appointed participants, experts in these large animal models. The conference continued for its first day with lectures by A. Aartsma-Rus (NL), and S. Wildhirt (DE), who described examples of use of large animal models for Duchenne muscular dystrophy and for the development of medical devices, respectively. The initial Ethical perspective on the use of large animals was provided by N. Stingelin (CH). This first day concluded with an interesting key-note lecture by M.M. Mohiuddin (USA) on the recent advances in pig-to-primate cardiac xenotransplantation.

On the second day, the conference presented the very large repertoire of methods and techniques that are currently available for Genetic Tailoring of large animal models. Angelika Schnieke (DE) introduced the state of art for the current genetic engineering of large animals, nicely summarizing many years of techniques and developments that have been successfully applied for the production of large genetically modified animal models. This initial talk was followed by a presentation by Lluis Montoliu (ES) on the use of CRISPR-Cas9 approaches to functionally analyze the role of non-coding genomic sequences, illustrated with some examples tested in mice, depicting the important role of rodents in proof-of-concept type of experiments, before undertaking subsequent experiments in larger animal models. B. Grzeskowiak (PL) presented an innovative set of nanomagnetic gene delivery vectors for transgenesis. Two additional talks illustrated the power of genetic engineering of the pig genome, using transposons (W.A. Kues, DE) or very elaborated gene cassettes for regulating and tracing disease genes (J.E. Jakobsen, DK). The session ended with a presentation from goats, where L. Boulanger (FR) reported the role of FOXL2 as a female sex-determining gene.

The SALAAM conference continued with a session devoted to systematic phenotyping initiatives of large animal models. At first, H. Fuchs (DE), presented the experience and phenotyping pipeline of the German Mouse Clinic, operating within the Infrafrontier consortium, and a good example of successful systematic phenotyping in mice. Next, Pascale Chavatte-Palmer (FR) discussed the achievements and challenges of imaging techniques in large animal models, through her studies on reproduction and fetal development. J. Tibau (ES) presented his interesting studies using pigs to analyze human obesity and to validate the effect of diets on the evolution of fat deposition using tomography approaches. A. Blutke (DE) introduced the impressive Munich MIDY-PIG Biobank initiative, as a unique resource for translational diabetes research. The two last talks presented the use of pigs as models for respiratory infections (K. Skovgaard, DK) or cystic fibrosis (I. Caballero, FR).

The last standard session of this SALAAM conference was devoted to discuss how to select the best animal model. This session began with an interesting presentation by J. Langermans (NL), who shared their initiative of non-human primate biobanking for translational medicine, a collaborative consortium where most of the nonhuman primate research centres in Europe were represented. He also discussed the unique features of non-human primates to investigate devastating diseases affecting us, such as the new infections (i.e. Ebola) or neurodegenerative diseases (i.e. Alzheimer, Parkinson) , often very challenging to be reproduced in non-primate animal models. Next, Antonio Gonzalez-Bulnes (ES) discussed the advantages and challenges of using pigs and sheep animal models, whereas L. Hiripi (HU) presented the unique features of the rabbit models. V. Huygelen (BE) discussed the use of piglets to investigate the human low birth weight cases , and A. Navarrete Santos (DE) further presented rabbits as ideal models for investigating diabetes during pregnancy. Diabetes research was also the focus of the last speaker of the session, G. Pennarossa (IT), whose experimental dessigns are focused on the use of dogs to explore cell therapy-based treatments.

The SALAAM first public conference ended with an excellent and very motivating talk by Karin Blumer (CH) on the ethical aspects of using large animals. She challenged the audience with the question whether “size did matter?” when it comes to Ethics and Animal Models. Her presentation nicely illustrated the different Ethical perspectives existing in the field and, most importantly, the relevant parameters that should be taken into account in order to properly address this question. She presented the “size” of an animal as an accidental attribute, not an intrinsic value, that must not determine its moral status. This presentation triggered an interesting and live discussion among the participants.

On the third and last day, the different working groups of SALAAM gathered first independently to discuss the next initiatives and eventually shared their conclusions in a combined general session. The planned initiatives will include the organization of practical workshops on CRISPR-Cas9 and transposon technologies, the generation of specific pig Cre-transgenic lines for the production of conditional pig mutant animal models, the need to standardize phenotyping protocols associated with additional specific training courses, the preparation of biobanks and associated databases for archiving and sharing tissues from large animal models, and the creation of a group to analyze the implementation of the 2010/63/EU Directive across Europe, the public perception and ethical issues of animal research, and the need for training to adequately communicate results to the public.

Information about future plans, initiatives and activities of the SALAAM EU-COST action will be available from its dedicated web site.

Transgenic Animal Technology. A Laboratory Handbook (3rd edition, 2014)

Transgenic Animal Technology. A Laboratory Handbook (3rd edition, 2014)
Transgenic Animal Technology. A Laboratory Handbook (3rd edition, 2014)

Twenty years after the publication of the first edition and twelve years after the release of the second edition of this book, Carl A. Pinkert (Auburn University, College of Veterinary Medicine, Auburn, AL, USA) in association with Elsevier, releases now the third edition of his famous transgenic manual: “Transgenic Animal Technology. A Laboratory Handbook. 3rd edition, 2014“. As it will be familiar to readers of the two previous editions of this useful and unique handbook, this is not only a manual to understand how to make a transgenic mouse. This handbook looks beyond mice and it contains protocols to prepare a wide variety of genetically-modified animals, including: rats, rabbits, poultry, fish, pigs, ruminants and non-human primates. In addition, this compilation of helpful methods includes a number of chapters devoted to understand and improve all steps of transgenesis, from vector design, analysis of transgene integration and the evaluation of transgene expression. Finally, the book also includes cryopreservation methods, an embryo culture section, a review of standard nomenclature and a selection of databases and internet resources currently available in the field.

This handbook is a worth addition to any library, laboratory or transgenic facility, complementary to other available manuals on the subject, but unique in the sense that it exquisitely illustrates current transgenic methods that can be applied to a wide variety of animal species, beyond mice.

Carl A. Pinkert has been helped in his outstanding Editorial task by a large group of co-authors, experts in their subjects, including some ISTT members: Satoshi Akagi, Anna V. Anagnostopoulos, Benjamin P. Beaton, Cory F. Brayton, Steve Brown, Anthony W.S. Chan, Tom Doetschman, Rex A. Dunham, David A. Dunn, Janan T. Eppig, Almudena Fernandez, Tatiana Flisikowska, Vasiliy Galat, Robert A. Godke, Philip Iannaccone, Michael H. Irwin, Larry W. Johnson, Yoko Kato, Teoan Kim, Alexander Kind, Bon Chul Koo, Mo Sun Kwon, Daniel J. Ledbetter, Michael J. Martin, Kazutsugu Matsukawa, Colin McKerlie, Lluis Montoliu, Paul E. Mozdziak, Akira Onishi, Paul A. Overbeek, James N. Petitte, L. Philip Sanford, Jorge A. Piedrahita, Wendy K. Pogozelski, H. Greg Polites, Edmund B. Rucker III, Marina Sansinena, Angelika Schnieke, Kumiko Takeda, James A. Thomson, Ian A. Trounce, Yukio Tsunoda, Cristina Vicente-Garcia, Kevin D. Wells, Richard N. Winn and Curtis R. Youngs.

Highlights of the TT2014 meeting in Edinburgh: a conference you can’t miss!

The TT2014 meeting in Edinburgh (6-8 October 2014)
The TT2014 meeting in Edinburgh (6-8 October 2014)

This year’s ISTT main activity is the 12th Transgenic Technology conference, the TT2014 meeting, which will be held in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, on 6-8 October 2014, followed by a 2-day hands-on workshop on basic zebrafish transgenesis techniques. The ISTT promotes the TT meetings every 18 months, these being the most important activity of our Society. This year, the local Organizers and advisory committees, commanded by Douglas Strathdee, need to be praised for preparing a most appealing and interesting program, addressing hot topics, current and most up-to-date issues actively discussed nowadays by the transgenic animal community. Talks that will be presented by the most active and prestigious scientists in our field.

Why you shouldn’t miss the TT2014 meeting?

  • If you are interested in the new transgenic methods associated to nucleases (ZFNs, TALENs and CRISPRs-Cas9) there will be plenty of interesting talks where these new fantastic tools will be presented and discussed, directly by the key players in this rapidly-evolving field, including: Rudolf Jaenisch, William Skarnes, Angelika Schnieke, Kai Schönig, Ignacion Anegon, Pawel Pelczar, Francis Stewart, Keith Joung and Feng Zhang. And, most likely, these techniques will be referred and cited in many additional talks too, including the round table discussion about the future of transgenic core facilities, chaired by James Bussell.
  • If you are interested in ES cell biology and in innovative uses of ES cells and associated technologies there will be unique talks delivered by Jos Jonkers, Austin Smith, Ian Chambers, Janet Rossant and Alex Joyner
  • If you are interested in phenotyping your mouse animal models there will be fantastic talks delivered by Jacqueline White, Stephen Murray, David Adams, Daniel Murphy, Anna-Katerina Hadjatonakis and Vasilis Ntziachristos
  • If you are interested in non-rodent, large mammals and birds, animal models there will be great talks by James Murray, Angelika Schnieke, Mike McGrew and Adrian Shermann
  • If you are interested in rats there will be compelling talks by Kai Schönig and Ignacio Anegon
  • If you are interested in zebrafish animal models there will be fascinating talks by Stephen Ekker, Koichi Kawakami, Keith Joung and Elizabeth Patton
  • If you are interested in animal welfare and 3Rs, in the best use of our laboratory animals, there will be captivating talks by Peter Hohenstein, Sara Wells and Jan-Bas Prins.

Therefore, there will be really engaging talks interesting to everyone in our field. This is why you shouldn’t miss this great and unique opportunity!.

Register now for the TT2014 meeting. Submission of abstracts will be accepted up to June 30. Early-Bird registration at reduced fees will be promoted up to July 31. ISTT members are entitled to reduced fee registration.

See you all in Edinburgh in October!

 

SALAAM: Sharing Advances on Large Animal Models

SALAAM: Sharing Advances on Large Animal Models
SALAAM: Sharing Advances on Large Animal Models

The EU-COST action SALAAM (Sharing Advances on Large Animal Models) was launched yesterday in Brussels, at a kick-off meeting attended by most of its members. This 4-year EU-COST action is currently formed by 17 countries and more than 44 participants, including many experts in the fields of animal genetics, physiology, transgenesis, bioethics, welfare and animal science, with a focus on large (i.e. non-rodent) animal models. This EU-COST action is chaired by Prof Eckhard Wolf (Germany) and vice-chaired by Dr. Pascale Chavatte-Palmer (France) and it includes various ISTT members such as Bruce Whitelaw (UK), Zsuzsanna Bosze (Hungary), András Dinnyes (Hungary), Cesare Galli (Italy) and Lluis Montoliu (Spain). In addition, another participant in this EU-COST action, Angelika Schnieke (Germany) is one of the invited speakers at the forthcoming 12th Transgenic Technology (TT2014) meeting to be held in Edinburgh (Scotland, UK).

EU-COST (European Cooperation in Science and Technology) is one of the oldest European initiatives in Science, an intergovernmental framework for European Cooperation in Science and Technology, allowing the coordination of nationally-funded research on a European level. SALAAM EU-COST action, as its acronym indicates, aims to sharing advances in genetic engineering and phenotyping of non-rodent mammals to develop predictive animal models for translational medicine. While recognizing the value of small and most popular animal models (mouse, rat, zebrafish, Drosophila, C. elegans, …) and its powerful genetics for increasing our knowledge on complex biological systems and for proof-of-concept-type experiments, this EU-COST action SALAAM focuses on large (i.e. non-rodent) mammalian models, since these may bridge the gap between proof-of-concept studies and more effective clinical trials, leading to better translational animal models for the study of human diseases. The research projects undertaken using rodent and non-rodent animal models should not be perceived as competition or opposed initiatives, rather as complementary studies, where each animal species is selected according to its particular value and expected benefits for the ultimate goal, that is, our understanding on the function of the mammalian (i.e. human) genome and the eventual development of effective treatments for many human diseases. During the course of this EU-COST action several conferences and training workshops will be organized, open to anyone interested in the field, to discuss about (1) new technologies (including the application of genome editing nucleases, i.e. CRISPR-Cas, for the generation of improved genetically altered animal models); (2) defining best animal models for specific phenotyping studies; (3) creation of databases for sharing information on animal models creates, tissues available and protocols; and (4) animal welfare, bioethics and communication to the public. All these conferences and training courses will be adequately advertised through the ISTT web site.

At the International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT) we care about the generation and the analysis of “all” genetically altered animals, not only focused in the classical rodent models, but also including the work done with other species, with large animal models, in livestock. In this regard, the ISTT has been traditionally supporting conferences on non-rodent transgenic animals, organized in Tahoe by ISTT Member Jim Murray (UC Davis, USA) and has promoted a web page within the ISTT web site where most of the advances on livestock and other non-rodent genetically modified animal resources are shared. At the next 12th Transgenic Technology (TT2014) meeting, which will be held in Edinburgh on 6-8 October 2014, the Conference Organizers (Douglas Strathdee-Chair, Peter Hohenstein and Bruce Whitelaw) have scheduled a session on animal biotechnology, where the recent work accomplished using large animal models will be discussed. In addition, immediately following the TT2014 meeting, a hands-on workshop on zebrafish transgenesis methods will be offered to interested participants.

Livestock and other non-rodent genetically modified animal resources available from the ISTT web page

Livestock and other non-rodent genetically modified animal resources available from the ISTT web page
Livestock and other non-rodent genetically modified animal resources available from the ISTT web page

There is life beyond mice and rats, there are many additional interesting and useful genetically-modified animal models beyond those made using rodents. Rodents are great animal models for genetic/genomic analyses and for the first preliminary experimental tests. However, larger mammals are more suitable to study most human diseases and to develop therapies and treatments. Likewise, other vertebrates, such as chicken and fish, are also very interesting and useful to develop applications in animal biotechnology. At the International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT) we have an increasing population of members working with all these other non-rodent genetically modified animals. The reference meeting in this area is the Transgenic Animal Research Conference (TARC), organized by ISTT Member James Murray (UC Davis, CA, USA) every two years, in August. The ISTT has had the pleasure to co-sponsor the last three editions of this conference series, in 2009, 2011 and 2013. In addition, in response to an increased interest by new ISTT members, a session devoted to non-rodent transgenic animals has been regularly scheduled in the last TT meetings (i.e. TT2011 and TT2013).

Now, from the ISTT web site, we would like to contribute disseminating and informing about all these other non-rodent transgenic animal models by launching a new web page with a collection of available resources for livestock and other non-rodent genetically modified animals. This page contains links to several academic and private institutions working with non-rodent transgenic animals. The list is not exhaustive and will be progressively updated and expanded with your suggestions and recommendations. Hence, if you are working in this field and your web page is not yet included in this web page, please contact us at webmaster@transtechsociety.org and we will correct, modify or add your suggested information. Thanks in advance for your expected collaboration!.

IX Transgenic Animal Research Conference, Tahoe City, CA, USA, 11-15 August 2013

IX Transgenic Animal Research Conference, Tahoe City, CA, USA, 11-15 August 2013
IX Transgenic Animal Research Conference, Tahoe City, CA, USA, 11-15 August 2013

The International Society for Transgenic Technologies (ISTT) has decided, once again, to co-sponsor the IX Transgenic Animal Research Conference, hosted by the Department of Animal Science, UC Davis, and organized by ISTT Member Prof. James D. Murray. This conference will be held at the Granlibakken Conference Center, in Tahoe City, CA, USA, on 11-15 August 2013. This is a classical conference, most complementary to the TT meeting series, and specifically devoted to basic and applied projects, research and technical developments using non-rodent genetically modified animals. The ISTT is proud to have supported the two previous UC Davis Transgenic Conferences in Tahoe held in 2009 and 2011.

According to the conference web site: This is the ninth international meeting hosted by UC Davis to bring together representatives from the leading laboratories worldwide doing cutting edge work on transgenic research in non-murine animals, including livestock, fish and poultry species. The previous meetings were each attended by up to 160 participants from 12 to16 different countries throughout the globe. Each conference, in addition to reviews and papers on transgenic animals, included presentations covering technical developments in areas such as nuclear transfer-based cloning, cell transformation, vector design, and nuclease-directed gene insertion that affect the production of transgenic animals. Oral presentations are by invitation, with participants encouraged to contribute poster presentations. The upcoming conference will again focus on state-of-the-art science in the field of transgenic research. Presentations will address cutting-edge methodology, technical improvements, and current progress towards producing transgenic animals for biomedical and agricultural applications. The intent of these meetings is to bring together scientists to discuss progress, problems, and potential application of transgenic technology for animal applications. The meeting will consist of invited presentations and submitted posters. Two afternoons from noon to 4 p.m. and one evening will be free to allow for small group interactions and to take advantage of the great natural beauty and recreational activities in the Lake Tahoe area.

Already appointed and confirmed Speakers include:

  • Matt Wheeler (Illinois) – opening talk
  • Bruce Whitelaw (Edinburgh) – closing talk , ISTT Member
  • Scott Fahrenkrug (Minnesota) – TALENS in livestock
  • Emmanuelle Charpentier (Germany/Sweden) – CRISPR RNA-programming technology
  • Caitlin Cooper (Davis) – feeding hLZ and hLF milk to pigs
  • Hongbin He (China) – FMDV resistance
  • Angelika Schnieke (Germany) – cancer models in pigs
  • Chuck Long (A&M) lentiviral production of livestock
  • Irina Polejaeva (Utah) – tg goat cardiovascular models
  • Goetz Laible or Stefan Wagner (NZ) – KO of beta-lactoglobulin and transduction of the mammary gland
  • Rob Etches (Crystal Biosciences) – heavy chain KO chickens
  • Yonglun Luo (Alun) (Denmark) – adeno-assoc HR + talens / BCRA-1
  • Mike McGrew (Roslin) growing and modifying avian primordial germ cells, including transposons
  • Tim Doran (Aust) Virus disease resistant transgenic poultry and fish
  • Derek Nimmo (UK) – TG mosquito for control of dengue fever
The complete registration packet for this IX TARC conference includes: conference registration fee, four night’s accommodation at Granlibakken, all meals, refreshments, receptions and ground transportation from Davis or Reno (if needed) (USD 1,600). ISTT Members are entitled to a reduced registration fee (USD 1,550). Registrations received after June 14, 2012 are NOT guaranteed.