The most common animal models currently used for Alzheimer disease (AD) research are transgenic mice that express a mutant form of human Aβ precursor protein (APP) and/or some of the enzymes implicated in their metabolic processing. However, these transgenic mice carry their own APP and APP-processing enzymes, which may interfere in the production of different amyloid-beta (Aβ) peptides encoded by the human transgenes. Additionally, the genetic backgrounds of the different transgenic mice are a possible confounding factor with regard to crucial aspects of AD that they may (or may not) reproduce. Thus, although the usefulness of transgenic mice is undisputed, we hypothesized that additional relevant information on the physiopathology of AD could be obtained from other natural non-transgenic models. We have analyzed the chick embryo and the dog, which may be better experimental models because their enzymatic machinery for processing APP is almost identical to that of humans. The chick embryo is extremely easy to access and manipulate. It could be an advantageous natural model in which to study the cell biology and developmental function of APP and a potential assay system for drugs that regulate APP processing. The dog suffers from an age-related syndrome of cognitive dysfunction that naturally reproduces key aspects of AD including Aβ cortical pathology, neuronal degeneration and learning and memory disabilities. However, dense core neuritic plaques and neurofibrillary tangles have not been consistently demonstrated in the dog. Thus, these species may be natural models with which to study the biology of AD, and could also serve as assay systems for Aβ-targeted drugs or new therapeutic strategies against this devastating disease.
Keywords: Chick embryo, dog, dolphin, rabbit, rat, APP, Aβ
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