Saturday, September 24, 2016

Thompson Research Center Field Day: Modified Genes: Science or Supper?

Rod Geisert

In the 1950s, artificial insemination was developed. In 1978, the first human born from in vitro fertilization was born. Both of these technologies were criticized at the time, but now they are widely accepted.

When you fabricate something in science, you are going to get caught! When someone makes a claim in the literature, others try to replicate it. There was a fraudulent report of cloning in mice, and although this was not a true success, it got people thinking about and trying to clone animals.

A clone is simply an identical twin born on a different day.

Dolly the clone was named after Dolly Parton, because the cell from the donor sheep was from a mammary cell. Cloning animals did not immediately change how we raise livestock. But, cloning allows us to do additional things, like gene editing.

Who is going to feed the world? You are! Technology revolutions, like the green revolution and industrial revolution, have allowed the human population and food supply to continue to grow.

We can use the cow’s mammory gland (udder) as a factory to make milk containing pharmaceuticals. But, they could also delete the gene responsible for coding the prion protein (the protein messed up in Mad Cow disease). This way, we can confidently use the protein made in the milk without the worry of getting Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could breed a cow that would never get mastitis? We can, by introducing a gene from bacteria that destroys the cell wall of the bacteria responsible for mastitis.

PRRS disease in swine causes hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue for the swine industry. Researchers at the University of Missouri removed a gene that was necessary for PRRS to replicate within swine cells. Twenty-five percent of the embryos treated with the CRISPR-Cas9 system contain the gene edit. Gene edited pigs could snort tons of the virus and never get sick (see http://munews.missouri.edu/news-releases/2015/1208-pigs-that-are-resistant-to-incurable-disease-developed-at-university-of-missouri/ for more information).

Gene edited animals are not transgenic. They are simply animals in which we have edited the DNA using a very precise technology (CRISPR-Cas9). Would you eat a cloned animal? Would you eat a twin animal? Eating a cloned animal is no different from eating a twin.

This is not technology that will impact the beef industry 100 years from now, 50 years from now; the use of this technology in the beef industry is right around the corner.

Post a Comment