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GENE EDITING PRODUCES ‘SUPER DAD’ LIVESTOCK

Scientists have produced gene-edited animals they say could serve as "super dads" or "surrogate sires," Helen Briggs wrote for BBC late on September 15, 2020.

The pigs, goats, cattle and mice make sperm carrying the genetic material of donor animals. The researchers used a hi-tech gene editing tool to knock out a male fertility gene in animal embryos. The animals were born sterile, but began producing sperm after an injection of sperm-producing cells from donor animals. The technique would enable surrogate males to sire offspring carrying the genetic material of valuable elite animals such as prize bulls, said a US-UK team. This would be a step towards genetically enhancing livestock to improve food production, they added. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the US.


Prof. Jon Oatley, of Washington State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, said: "This can have a major impact on addressing food insecurity around the world. If we can tackle this genetically, then that means less water, less feed and fewer antibiotics we have to put into the animals." Bull "super dads" could be used to sire healthier or meatier cows.


Gene editing involves deleting or changing coding in embryos. One example of current technology is CRISPR, a biological system for altering DNA discovered in 2012. CRISPR scans the genome looking for the location of a certain gene and then uses "molecular scissors" to snip through the DNA. While effective in the lab, the process is less than perfect and can cut out too much DNA. These unwanted edits could alter other important genes.



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