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COLUMBIA, Mo.-Have you ever used the term "pig" to describe a sedentary person who eats poorly? If so, shame on you. You owe the pigs at the University of Missouri-Columbia an apology.

These pigs don't lie around in the mud all day eating garbage. In fact, you'd sooner find them on a treadmill than in a pigsty.

No, these porcine runners aren't training for a marathon. The pigs are part of a project studying the importance of exercise in preventing heart disease.

In 1995, researchers began to investigate exercise's structural and functional impacts on the cardiovascular system using miniature Yucatan pigs. Since Yucatan pigs have a coronary anatomy and a sedentary nature similar to humans, they make good study models.

Originally, the project received a five-year grant of $6.8 million from the National Institutes of Health, which has renewed the grant with another $8 million for the next five years. The first study focused on smooth muscle cells, while the next study will focus on the cells that line blood vessels.