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Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Dec 10;7:89. doi: 10.1186/1743-7075-7-89.

Use of hamster as a model to study diet-induced atherosclerosis.

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  • 1Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, Jean Mayer U,S, Department of Agriculture, Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, 711 Washington Street, Boston, MA 02111, USA.


Golden-Syrian hamsters have been used as an animal model to assess diet-induced atherosclerosis since the early 1980s. Advantages appeared to include a low rate of endogenous cholesterol synthesis, receptor-mediated uptake of LDL cholesterol, cholesteryl ester transfer protein activity, hepatic apoB-100 and intestinal apoB-48 secretion, and uptake of the majority of LDL cholesterol via the LDL receptor pathway. Early work suggested hamsters fed high cholesterol and saturated fat diets responded similarly to humans in terms of lipoprotein metabolism and aortic lesion morphology. Recent work has not consistently replicated these findings. Reviewed was the literature related to controlled hamster feeding studies that assessed the effect of strain, background diet (non-purified, semi-purified) and dietary perturbation (cholesterol and/or fat) on plasma lipoprotein profiles and atherosclerotic lesion formation. F1B hamsters fed a non-purified cholesterol/fat-supplemented diet had more atherogenic lipoprotein profiles (nHDL-C > HDL-C) than other hamster strains or hamsters fed cholesterol/fat-supplemented semi-purified diets. However, fat type; saturated (SFA), monounsaturated or n-6 polyunsaturated (PUFA) had less of an effect on plasma lipoprotein concentrations. Cholesterol- and fish oil-supplemented semi-purified diets yielded highly variable results when compared to SFA or n-6 PUFA, which were antithetical to responses observed in humans. Dietary cholesterol and fat resulted in inconsistent effects on aortic lipid accumulation. No hamster strain was reported to consistently develop lesions regardless of background diet, dietary cholesterol or dietary fat type amount. In conclusion, at this time the Golden-Syrian hamster does not appear to be a useful model to determine the mechanism(s) of diet-induced development of atherosclerotic lesions.

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