LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Pigs and humans: The two have a whole lot more in common than you might think. Pigs have proven to be particularly effective in bio-medical research for humans.
A potentially groundbreaking research project on knee and arthritis treatments is underway in pigs at the McNeese State University farm.
The specially-selected swine were all evaluated from head-to-hoof to be part of this research study, which is spearheaded by orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Alan Hinton, and partnered with Dr. Chip LeMieux of MSU's Harold and Pearl Dripps Department of Agricultural Sciences.
"We do look at the feet and legs. We make sure that they don't have any abscesses or sores or any kind of structural issues in the pigs prior to the surgery," said LeMieux.
When Hinton came up with the idea for this research project, he knew he needed access to pigs. He reached out to LeMieux, who has used pigs at the farm for his own research projects that could have human implications.
"A lot of the physiological systems are similar," said LeMieux. "The joint size and structure and the weight-bearing of this animal is real similar to the humans."
The purpose of Hinton's project is to regrow a meniscus, which is the cartilage in the knee that protects the bones from wear and tear.
"What we're doing here is to remove a piece of meniscus from the pig and then inject stem cells to see if it can regrow the meniscus," he said.
To do that, the pigs are put on the operating table under anesthesia, administered by retired veterinarian, Dr. Sam Monticello, and a piece of the meniscus is removed. Next, human stem cells are injected into that site.
"We found that it's not actually the cells per se that do the good, it's something that they produce, it's something in the proteins," said Hinton.