Functional parameters for the development of the central nervous system of piglets
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Because of improved health care the survival rate of preterm infants and low birth weight infants is increased. These infants often have brain abnormalities resulting in a higher incidence of some diseases or disorders in these infants. To limit these brain abnormalities and their consequences, research has to be done. Due to ethical and practical constraints this research cannot be done in humans, so a suitable translational model is needed. Brain growth in human neonates and piglets is comparable concerning the timing of the brain growth spurt and the growth of some brain regions. This suggests that piglets should be a suitable translational model for the growth and development of the central nervous system (CNS) of human neonates. A test battery is needed to measure the relative stage of development of the CNS in neonatal piglets before piglets can be used as animal model. After a literature study 25 tests were conducted on 25 piglets of 0 to 28 days of age to see if the tests were feasible and aversive in piglets. Aversive and non-feasible tests were deleted and the remaining 13 tests were conducted on low birth weight (LBW) piglets and normal birth weight (NBW) piglets for three weeks. The tests were assessed on presence of a turning point (e.g. a test was first absent but after a few days present), normal distribution and differences in the outcomes between the LBW group and NBW group. None of the tests showed a turning point. Not a single test had a normal distribution at all point of time and there were no significant differences in the outcomes between the LBW group and the NBW group. Therefore, the test battery that was developed during this pilot study was not appropriate to measure the functions of piglets before weaning. It can also be concluded that the development of LBW piglets is not by definition retarded concerning the CNS.