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Soon, Genetically Modified Pork Will Fill Your Pies & Sausages

The great British banger could be produced from genetically modified pigs within a few years, according to new research.

Scottish scientists from the same institute that created ‘Dolly the Sheep’ have created genetically modified pigs that are resistant to one of the world’s deadliest animal diseases.

It could lead to GM pork pies and sausages — despite fears over ‘Frankenstein food’. Tests showed the creatures don’t get infected by Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS).

Popularly known as ‘blue ear disease’ it costs the swine industry £120 million a year. What’s more, the DNA change does not seem to have any effect on the pigs’ health. Dr. Christine Tait-Burkard said, “These results are exciting but it will still likely be several years before we’re eating bacon sandwiches from PRRS-resistant pigs.”

The devastating virus causes breathing problems and deaths in young animals. If pregnant sows become infected it can lead to them losing their litter. It infects pigs using a gene on their cells’ surface called CD163.

Researchers at Edinburgh University’s Roslin Institute — which cloned ‘Dolly the Sheep’ — used a gene editing tool to snip a bit out.

Working with animal genetics giant Genus PLC they focused on the section of the receptor the virus attaches to in the eggs of female pigs — removing the doorway for the virus. The researchers used a technique called CRISPR/ Cas9, a carefully targeted enzyme which cuts strands of DNA.

It is offering hope of new ways of combating a host of human illnesses. Previous research had shown cells from these animals were resistant to the virus in lab tests. It is the first time the pigs have been exposed to the virus.

The study published in the Journal of Virology found none became ill. Blood tests found no trace of the infection. Vaccines have mostly failed to stop the spread of the virus — which continues to evolve rapidly.

Other groups have used gene editing to create PRRS-resistant pigs by removing the whole CD163 receptor. Taking out only a section allows it to retain its ordinary function in the body and reduces the risk of side effects, said the researchers.

Dr. Tait-Burkard said a broader public discussion on the acceptability of GM meat entering our food chain is now needed to help inform political leaders on how such techniques should be regulated.

She said, “We also need to carry out long-term studies to confirm these genetic changes do not have any unforeseen adverse effects on the animals.“If these studies are successful and the public is accepting of this technology, we would then be looking to work with pig breeding companies to integrate these gene edits into commercial breeding stocks.”

GM techniques have been controversial because they can involve introducing genes of other species into an animal. Blue ear disease was first reported in 1987 in North America and is endemic in most pig producing countries.

via Daily Mirror
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