Scientists in Argentina have applied CRISPR gene-editing technology to produce horses with improved performance characteristics.
Argentina-based cloning specialist company Kheiron Biotech has reportedly produced healthy embryos of cloned horses with edited genes. The company plans to implant the embryos into a surrogate mother within two years.
CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) gene-editing technology was used to manipulate the myostatin gene sequence, which is involved in muscle development, speed, and stamina, to provide horses that can run faster and longer and jump higher than their non-engineered counterparts.
CRISPR genes are found in certain bacteria and other organisms and enable these organisms to acquire resistance to invading genetic material through the incorporation of genome fragments of the infectious agents. The CRISPR system has been employed for gene editing because it is relatively simple and easy to manipulate. By employing the CRISP technology, it is possible for scientists to cut out natural DNA sequences and replace them with engineered sequences that produce different enzymes and proteins that lead to different characteristics.
Genetic engineering is much quicker than traditional breeding methods. With the latter approach, desirable characteristics can take generations to appear. Kheiron Biotech founder Daniel Sammartino noted that: “This technology brings additional progress in horse breeding. It could be possible to achieve better horses in less time.”
CRISPR has also been used to genetically engineer rats with the intention of addressing a growing rodent infestation in the U.K. Scientists at Edinburgh University in Scotland hope to use the “gene drive” process to spread infertility genes through a population of rodents. They have employed CRISPR technology to engineer rats in the lab, with the intention of releasing the labs into the native population.
“Crispr is perhaps the most exciting tool that has ever hit biology, and it is a fantastic tool for us to pull apart the function of genes and how the animal or plant functions,” states Professor Bruce Whitelaw of University of Edinburgh.