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Journal of Biomedicine and Biotechnology
Volume 2011 (2011), Article ID 406473, 10 pages
Review Article

Roles of the WHHL Rabbit in Translational Research on Hypercholesterolemia and Cardiovascular Diseases

1 Institute for Experimental Animals, Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, 7-5-1, Kusunoki-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0017, Japan
2Section of Animal Models for Cardiovascular Disease, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Kobe University Graduate School of Medicine, 7-5-1, Kusunoki-cho, Chuo-ku, Kobe 650-0017, Japan

Received 10 September 2010; Revised 17 January 2011; Accepted 15 February 2011

Academic Editor: Andrea Vecchione

Copyright © 2011 Tsutomu Kobayashi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Conquering cardiovascular diseases is one of the most important problems in human health. To overcome cardiovascular diseases, animal models have played important roles. Although the prevalence of genetically modified animals, particularly mice and rats, has contributed greatly to biomedical research, not all human diseases can be investigated in this way. In the study of cardiovascular diseases, mice and rats are inappropriate because of marked differences in lipoprotein metabolism, pathophysiological findings of atherosclerosis, and cardiac function. On the other hand, since lipoprotein metabolism and atherosclerotic lesions in rabbits closely resemble those in humans, several useful animal models for these diseases have been developed in rabbits. One of the most famous of these is the Watanabe heritable hyperlipidemic (WHHL) rabbit, which develops hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis spontaneously due to genetic and functional deficiencies of the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor. The WHHL rabbit has been improved to develop myocardial infarction, and the new strain was designated the myocardial infarction-prone WHHL (WHHLMI) rabbit. This review summarizes the importance of selecting animal species for translational research in biomedical science, the development of WHHL and WHHLMI rabbits, their application to the development of hypocholesterolemic and/or antiatherosclerotic drugs, and future prospects regarding WHHL and WHHLMI rabbits.