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<p>e pig takes a step towards stardom tonight.</p>

Meet “Lillian” the Pig! This year’s American Diabetes Association’s Kiss A Pig contest starred eight-month-old Ossabaw pig

As the guest of honor at this year’s Kiss A Pig contest for the American Diabetes Association, Lillian is the center of attention for five candidates who’ve raised more than $51,000 for diabetes research. The big event took place March 19 as part of the Indiana Pacers’ halftime show at Conseco Fieldhouse.

Kiss A Pig is an event of the American Diabetes Association that raises funds to fuel research for a cure for diabetes. The event honors the pig for its life-saving role as one of the first discovered sources of insulin, a hormone needed to save the lives of the more than 24 million Americans with diabetes.

Lillian’s breed, the Ossabaw miniature swine, bears a striking resemblance to humans in its tendency to develop type 2 diabetes — a form of diabetes in which muscle tissue does not respond to insulin effectively and the pancreas eventually stops producing insulin the way it should. Type 2 diabetes is a growing epidemic in the United States and is attributed to factors that include poor diet, lack of exercise and weight gain. Without proper management of the disease, diabetes can lead to serious health complications like heart disease, stroke, blindness and amputations. As a member of the Ossabaw breed, Lillian’s participation tonight is a special reminder of the importance of diabetes research and prevention.

According to Michael Sturek, chairman of the IU School of Medicine Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology and a principal investigator of the IUSM-Purdue University Comparative Medicine Program that studies the Ossabaw pig, Lillian’s ancestors were isolated on Ossabaw Island off the coast of Georgia 500 years ago and evolved a thrifty genotype — basically a propensity to obesity — to adapt to the feast and famine ecology of the barrier island.

Although the pigs are free of coronary artery disease with their active lifestyle on the island, pre-diabetes, full-blown type 2 diabetes, and coronary disease are being found in this exquisite human-like model when the pigs are sedentary and overeat, like many Americans. Dr. Sturek and his colleagues rescued several of the pigs from Ossabaw Island 6 years ago when the state determined they (an introduced species) must be eradicated to prevent destruction of the sea turtle.

When she’s not starring in Kiss A Pig, Lillian is a Critter Keepers 4-H club pet who lives with leader Pam Rogers and her barnyard friends near Mooresville, Indiana. Lillian enjoys walks outside, acorns, marshmallows and cuddling with the barn cats at her farm

To take part in Kiss A Pig, candidates must compete against each other in a contest to raise funds for their Kiss A Pig campaign ($1 equals one vote). The candidates with the most votes get to kiss Lillian during halftime at tonight’s Pacers game. 

About Diabetes

Diabetes is a devastating disease that affects more than 24 million Americans, including more than 700,000 Hoosiers. An additional 54 million Americans have pre-diabetes. Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death by disease and has no cure.

About the American Diabetes Association

The American Diabetes Association is the nation’s premier voluntary health organization supporting diabetes research, information and advocacy. Founded in 1940, the Association has offices in every region of the country, providing services to hundreds of communities. The Association’s commitment to research is reflected through its scientific meetings; education and provider recognition programs; and its Research Foundation and Nationwide Research Program, which fund breakthrough studies looking into the cure, prevention, and treatment of diabetes and its complications. For more information, visit or call 888-DIABETES (888-342-2383).