A preterm pig model of lung immaturity and spontaneous infant respiratory distress syndrome


Respiratory distress syndrome (RDS) and bronchopulmonary dysplasia remain the leading causes of preterm infant morbidity, mortality, and lifelong disability. Research to improve outcomes requires translational large animal models for RDS. Preterm pigs delivered by caesarian section at gestation days (GD) 98, 100, 102, and 104 were provided 24 h of neonatal intensive care, monitoring (pulse oximetry, blood gases, serum biomarkers, radiography), and nutritional support, with or without intubation and mechanical ventilation (MV; pressure control ventilation with volume guarantee). Spontaneous development of RDS and mortality without MV are inversely related with GD at delivery and correspond with inadequacy of tidal volume and gas exchange. GD 98 and 100 pigs have consolidated lungs, immature alveolar architecture, and minimal surfactant protein-B expression, and MV is essential at GD 98. Although GD 102 pigs had some alveoli lined by pneumocytes and surfactant was released in response to MV, blood gases and radiography revealed limited recruitment 1-2 h after delivery, and mortality at 24 h was 66% (35/53) with supplemental oxygen provided by a mask and 69% (9/13) with bubble continuous positive airway pressure (8-9 cmH2O). The lungs at GD 104 had higher densities of thin-walled alveoli that secreted surfactant, and MV was not essential. Between GD 98 and 102, preterm pigs have ventilation inadequacies and risks of RDS that mimic those of preterm infants born during the saccular phase of lung development, are compatible with standards of neonatal intensive care, and are alternative to fetal nonhuman primates and lambs.

Publication Title

American Journal of Physiology - Lung Cellular and Molecular Physiology