Scientists have been making use of Hi-Tech gene editing techniques to boost the male fertility gene of livestock animals, thereby producing gene edited livestock animals that can play the role of a “surrogate sire”.
These gene edited livestock animals “surrogate sires” produce sperm that carries the genetic makeup of the donor animals.
The researchers adopted a hi-tech gene editing tool to block a male fertility gene in animal embryos causing the animals to be born infertile. This animals however started to produce sperm after an injection of sperm-producing cells from donor animals.
This gene editing techniques would help the “surrogate sires” to reproduce offspring that carries the genetic makeup of credible animals like healthier animals.
According to a US-UK team “The technique would enable surrogate males to sire offspring carrying the genetic material of valuable elite animals such as prize bulls. This would be a step towards genetically enhancing livestock to improve food production”
“This can have a major impact on addressing food insecurity around the world. If we can tackle this genetically, then that means less water, less feed and fewer antibiotics we have to put into the animals.” Said Prof Jon Oatley, of Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine.
The result of the experiment
The surrogate sires were ascertained to carry active donor sperm. The mice used for the experiment sired healthy offspring that carried the genes of the sperm donor.
Although the bigger livestock animals have not yet been bred, Prof Bruce Whitelaw of the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh said the experiment gave a substantial evidence.
In his words : “This shows the world that this technology is real. It can be used, We now have to go in and work out how best to use it productively to help feed our growing population.”
This Hi-Tech gene editing technique can be used to preserve species that are on the verge of going extinct.
However, there is no authorization granted yet on Gene-edited livestock for human consumption.
Ethical issues surrounding gene editing
There are ethical issues affecting the gene-editing technique in livestock animals. This is being assessed by the Nuffield Council on Bioethics. Although gene editing technique might be the answer to food security issues, it might be unaccepted.
“Whether and to what extent genome editing can and should be deployed outside the research setting will depend on further research and development progressing in alignment with societal values and interests that have, in many cases, yet to be clearly defined,” Director Hugh Whittall told BBC News.
“These are among the questions that we are exploring in our current inquiry on genome editing and farmed animals.”
This research is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences