Biomedical research carried out by Avantea is focusing on three main areas: animal models, stem cells and toxicological testing; all these three sectors rely on the application of advanced reproductive technologies.

In the biomedical field, Avantea has been involved in a large European research project, named Xenome, for the derivation of pigs with genetic characteristics that make them more compatible with human immunity. The goal was to generate pigs, by cloning, which could be tissue donors for humans. Other research projects, in which Avantea is collaborating, are exploring generation of pigs for experimental surgery; some of them are related to the production of pigs carrying marker genes that enable to identify their tissues after transplantation and the pig as an animal model to study human degenerative diseases.

In the area of stem cell Avantea is a partner in a European research project (Plurysis, FP7) and performs basic research on embryonic stem cells of bovine embryo as a model compared to the comparative model of mouse stem cells.

With regards to the use of reproductive technologies for biomedical purposes, Avantea as partner of the project Reprotect has developed some toxicological tests based on animal gametes and embryos. Avantea is also partner of the Esnats and Scr&tox reserach projects, in which the development of tests is based on stem cells of various origins. At international level, it is a strongly emerging area of research, which addresses the need to develop alternatives laboratory tests that do not require animal sacrifice, instead of using small rodents, usually used for conventional toxicological tests.

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The animal model used at Avantea research centre is the pig, as its physiology is the closest to humans after primates.
In general, animal models are important for biomedical research because they can offer an approximation of human disease and may contribute to the understanding of the eziopathological mechanisms and to the development of treatments or prevention strategies.
The models developed by Avantea are pigs generated by combining genetic engineering together with the technique of somatic cloning. The procedure consists of the derivation of somatic cell lines (typically fibroblasts) with genetic characteristics partly modified by the introduction or removal of one or more genes of interest. Cells carrier of the desired characteristics are used in the cloning procedure to obtain cloned embryos that are transplanted into recipient sows. In this way animals carrying genetic modifications similar to those of human genetic diseases can be obtained creating an animal model for a particular disease.
In the same way, animals with genetic characteristics that would make them potential donors of cells and tissues for xenotransplantation or for the biotechnology industry can be obtained.

Avantea takes part in important research projects at national and European level (Translink, Xenoislet), collaborating with leading scientific institutions and universities in the field of xenotrasplantation and in particular related to the use of the pig as an animal model in biomedical and biotechnological research.


    Embryonic stem cells have the characteristic of giving origin to all cell types that make up an animal or a human being. For this reason these cells are of great interest for biomedical research and are currently used in various areas of research. A first use is for the development of toxicological tests for drugs and chemical substances potentially harmful to embryonic development. Another important research area includes the study of differentiation into tissues in order to understand the molecular mechanisms and to develop protocols for obtaining cells suitable for tissue repair by transplantation (cell therapy).

    Avantea research activity in the field of embryonic stem cells is carried out within European research projects (Esnats, Scr&Tox and Plurisys), focused on the development of toxicological tests,and on the study of the mechanisms that govern pluripotency of embryonic stem cells and drive their differentiation.



    The development of in vitro toxicity testing is a research area rapidly expanding in all developed countries; this is because, first, it aims to reduce the use of laboratory animals for toxicology testing, and secondly to provide industry with effective methods for testing potential toxic effects of different chemicals. For this reason the European Union is supporting through funding programmes a number of integrated research projects in order to encourage the growth of in vitro toxicological tests.

    Avantea has been involved in different European research projects:

    • Avantea was one of the partners of the European project ReProTect (2004-2009). Within this project, Avantea developed two in vitro tests used to detect toxic effects on bovine gametes (during oocyte maturation and fertilization). Similarly animal embryos and embryonic stem cells represent a valuable biological model for in vitro studies on embryo toxicity. This line of research promises to provide chemical and pharmaceutical industry with new and sensitive techniques for toxicology studies in reproductive field.
    • Avantea was partner of the European project ESNATS (Embryonic Stem cell-based Novel Alternative Testing Strategies 2008-2013) that aimed to develop new approaches for chemicals testing based on embryonic stem cells. The aim was, firstly, to increase drug development, through an initial screening using in vitro technologies with high efficiency and, secondly, substantially decrease the use of animals required for conventional toxicity tests.
    • Avantea is also partner of the European project Scr&tox, together with 13 international organizations (industrial and academic), with the objectives of developing alternatives to toxicological testing for the European cosmetics industry, to increase the reliability of chemicals and cosmetics and to reduce the use of animal testing. The development of alternative toxicological tests is considered to be of fundamental importance for the whole European cosmetics industry, in order to protect human health by improving the safety and reliability of products. Together with five other projects, Scr&Tox, is part of a single European initiative funded by the European Commission and COLIPA, the European Association of Cosmetic Industry. The purpose of Scr&Tox is to generate new techniques and methods of analysis for toxicity testing of cosmetic products and drugs before they can be placed on the market.