Autoimmune diseases in human patients only become clinically manifest when the disease process has developed to a stage where functional compensation by the afflicted organ or system is not possible anymore. In order to understand the initial etiologic and pathogenic events that are generally not yet accessible in humans, appropriate animal models are required. In this respect, spontaneously developing models-albeit rare-reflect the situation in humans much more closely than experimentally induced models, including knockout and transgenic mice. The present chapter describes three spontaneous chicken models for human autoimmune diseases, the Obese strain (OS) with a Hashimoto-like autoimmune thyroiditis, the University of California at Davis lines 200 and 206 (UCD-200 and -206) with a scleroderma-like disease, and the amelanotic Smyth line with a vitiligo-like syndrome (SLV). Special emphasis is given to the new opportunities to unravel the genetic basis of these diseases in view of the recently completed sequencing of the chicken genome.
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