Customised pets? Gene edited dogs, pigs available for sale

  • Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Oct 21, 2015 17:42 IST
Genetically modified beagles. (MIT Technology Review)

Chinese scientists have successfully used a gene editing technique to engineer extra-muscular dogs, according to a report in the MIT Technology Review.

Researchers at Guangzhou Institute of Biomedicine and Health in China deleted a gene called Myostatin in a beagle and doubled its amount of muscle mass.

The dogs have “more muscles and are expected to have stronger running ability, which is good for hunting, police (military) applications,” Liangxue Lai, a researcher told the MIT Technology Review.

Genetically modified dog - after and before (MIT Technology Review)

According to the institute’s website, the annual production of experimental beagle dogs ranges between 2,000 and 2,500. The institute also provides thousands of beagle dogs to a number of drug safety evaluation centres in China and abroad.

Gene editing is a technique carried out by scientists worldwide in which they either disable genes or alter the sequence of living beings to achieve a modified version.

This is not the first time scientists have engineered animals in this fashion. Goats, rabbits, rats, pigs and monkeys are also used in gene editing experiments.

BGI - a genomics institue in Shenzhen, China - has been selling gene edited micro-pigs for $1,600 from September this year. It is also planning to create pigs with different colours and patterns, according to the specifications of the customer.

Micropigs at a summit in Shenzhen, China (BGI website)

“We plan to take orders from customers now and see what the scale of the demand is,” Yong Li, technical director of BGI’s animal-science platform, told the science journal Nature.

According to reports, it is possible to alter the Myostatin gene even in humans. Scientists have already started devising regulations for safe use of this technology which if left unchecked may result in genetically altered powerful, muscular humans.

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