September 15, 2020
Gene-edited livestock the future of global food production
United States and British researches have developed gene-edited swine, cattle and goats to produce disease resistant sperm with higher meat quality, in an effort to boost food production, Reuters reported.
The researchers said the livestock were developed using the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool, resulting in surrogate sires. These create sterile blank state genes for the transplant of stem cells with wanted sperm.
Jon Oatley, a reproductive biologist at Washington State University in the United States and co-leader of the study, said the technology creates better distribution of desired traits and boosts food production efficiency.
He said the resulting livestock are healthier, more productive and require reduced resources such as feed, water and medicines, addressing global food insecurity. This precision breeding of better livestock could help breeders located in remote locations.
In response to critics who oppose the genetic modification of animals, the researchers said the gene-editing process can only create changes within an animal species which could develop naturally.
The researchers added that this was a proof of concept, as current regulations in the livestock industry do not allow gene-edited surrogate sires in any food chain supply anywhere.
The team used the CRISPR-Cas9 technology to target a male fertility gene in livestock embryos that will result in the surrogate sires. The male livestock are born sterile, but will produce sperm once the scientists transplanted stem cells from donor livestock into their testes.
Bruce Whitelaw, a Roslin Institute at Britain's Edinburgh University expert and part of the team, said they now must figure out how best this can be used to assist in feeding the global growing population.