Scientists Announce Leaner Bacon from CRISPR-Edited Pigs
Chinese scientists have reported that they successfully created 12 genetically modified pigs with about 24 percent less body fat than average pigs. Qiantao Zheng, et al., “Reconstitution of UCP1 using CRISPR/Cas9 in the white adipose tissue of pigs decreases fat deposition and improves thermogenic capacity,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 17, 2017. According to the researchers, pigs lack a gene called UCP1 that allows animals to regulate body temperature in cold weather. Using gene-editing technique CRISPR-Cas9, the scientists created and implanted modified pig embryos into female pigs. Tests on the piglets reportedly showed they were much better at regulating their body temperatures, which could potentially reduce farmers’ heating and feeding costs and prevent pig deaths in cold weather.
NPR further explored the use of gene editing in food production, discussing the Coalition for Responsible Gene Editing in Agriculture’s campaign to dispel fears associated with food products created using CRISPR. “Those in technology have to be more transparent and be much more engaged in a public conversation and dialogue, in order to answer those questions, address the skepticism and ultimately result in earning consumer trust in what they’re doing in gene editing,” the article quotes the coalition’s leader, Charlie Arnot, as saying. The article also notes that some CRISPR-edited food products will not be regulated like foods produced from genetically modified organisms because the CRISPR process does not necessarily introduce any foreign genetic material.