Phenylketonuria (PKU) is a metabolic disorder whereby phenylalanine metabolism is deficient due to allelic variations in the gene for phenylalanine hydroxylase (PAH). There is no cure for PKU other than orthotopic liver transplantation, and the standard of care for patients is limited to dietary restrictions and key amino acid supplementation. Therefore, Pah was edited in pig fibroblasts for the generation of PKU clone piglets that harbor a common and severe human mutation, R408W. Additionally, the proximal region to the mutation was further humanized by introducing 5 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) to allow for development of gene editing machinery that could be translated directly from the pig model to human PKU patients that harbor at least one classic R408W allele. Resulting piglets were hypopigmented (a single Ossabaw piglet) and had low birthweight (all piglets). The piglets had similar levels of PAH expression, but no detectable enzymatic activity, consistent with the human phenotype. The piglets were fragile and required extensive neonatal care to prevent failure to thrive and early demise. Phenylalanine levels rose sharply when dietary Phe was unrestricted but could be rapidly reduced with a low Phe diet. Fibroblasts isolated from R408W piglets show susceptibility to correction using CRISPR or TALEN, with subsequent homology-directed recombination to correct Pah. This pig model of PKU provides a powerful new tool for development of all classes of therapeutic candidates to treat or cure PKU, as well as unique value for proof-of-concept studies for in vivo human gene editing platforms in the context of this humanized PKU allele.
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