The pig as animal model for low birth weight infants: focus on small intestinal development and function

Date: 2 July 2015

Venue: UAntwerpen - Campus Drie Eiken - Promotiezaal - Gebouw Q - Universiteitplein 1 - 2610 Wilrijk

Time: 4:00 PM

PhD candidate: Véronique Huygelen

Principal investigator: Prof C. Van Ginneken and Prof S. Van Cruchten

Short description: PhD defence Véronique Huygelen - Faculty of Pharmaceutical, Biomedical and Veterinary Sciences


Low birth weight (LBW) occurs in 7-9 % human births and is considered to be a significant health problem due the high perinatal mortality and morbidity.

The small intestine (SI) is responsible for the first physiological step of supplying nutrients to cells and as such plays a pivotal role in regulating the development of young mammals. Also in pigs a high prevalence of LBW piglets is observed and the intestinal tract shows many similarities with man, making the pig an appropriate model for human LBW neonates.

Hence, we investigated the effect of birth weight (BWT) on the structure (villus height, villus width, crypt depth, the thickness of the tunica muscularis, and crypt cell proliferation (Ki-67 immunohistochemistry)), in vivo motility (transit time and gastric emptying), in vivo permeability (lactulose/mannitol absorption test and protein expression of the tight junction protein occludin) and brush border enzyme activities (disaccharidases and peptidases) of the small intestine in the pig. No effect of BWT on the development and function of the SI was observed. However, this study showed structural and functional adaptations of the SI with age.