MAR 27, 2015 5:40 AM PDT

CRISPR Genome-Edited Piglets

WRITTEN BY: Judy O'Rourke
Eighteen piglets born recently are the result of two years of intense research by scientists in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Maryland, and represent what they characterize as a breakthrough in the field of genetic engineering.

Bhanu Telugu, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Animal & Avian Sciences (ANSC), and Ki-Eun Park, PhD, faculty research assistant, ANSC, have successfully produced genome-edited pigs using a recently developed, novel technique called the clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) system.

Known as a "target and replace/modify function" for DNA, the CRISPR system has dramatically improved scientists' ability to disable genes or modify their function inside any living cell.

Originally discovered in a natural system used by bacteria to protect themselves from infection by viruses, the CRISPR method is now being tested in various biomedical applications on a variety of species. Park and Telugu's lab is one of only a handful in North America to successfully use the method in pigs.

"From a biomedical standpoint, the pig is really one of the most important animals," says Telugu, noting that other large animal models such as cows or sheep don't have digestive systems, diets, or physiology similar enough to humans' to provide insight into human diseases. Park and Telugu were able to put their own "spin" on the method, discovering a way to directly modify nucleotides, rather than deleting specific genes to achieve their desired result. The duo is pursuing a patent on this technique.

Park and Telugu's research is not related to production for human consumption. Now that the researchers have been successful using this technology, they plan to look for applications that would improve animal welfare, including disease resistance. Telugu recently received a $1.6 million grant from the USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to research flu resistance in pigs.

He plans to further that research using this new technique and to look for ways to study other human diseases through the pig model, such as diabetes and obesity.

[Source: University of Maryland]
About the Author
  • Judy O'Rourke worked as a newspaper reporter before becoming chief editor of Clinical Lab Products magazine. As a freelance writer today, she is interested in finding the story behind the latest developments in medicine and science, and in learning what lies ahead.
You May Also Like
NOV 22, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Many Kids with Inherited High Cholesterol Don't Get the Treatment They Need
NOV 22, 2020
Many Kids with Inherited High Cholesterol Don't Get the Treatment They Need
Our bodies need cholesterol for certain crucial functions; it's a vital component of cell walls, for example. But there ...
DEC 04, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
An 'Off' Switch to Improve CRISPR Precision
DEC 04, 2020
An 'Off' Switch to Improve CRISPR Precision
The CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool has tremendous potential to treat genetic diseases, but sometimes it makes unintended ...
DEC 10, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Finding a Way to Restore Memory Loss Caused by Alzheimer's
DEC 10, 2020
Finding a Way to Restore Memory Loss Caused by Alzheimer's
It's thought that by the year 2060, there will be 14 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease.
DEC 14, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
tRNA Plays a Role in the Immune Response to Stroke
DEC 14, 2020
tRNA Plays a Role in the Immune Response to Stroke
At one time, researchers knew that various forms of RNA served a few different critical roles in the creation of protein ...
FEB 01, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
As Many as 20% of Patients Would Benefit From Pharmacogenetic Testing
FEB 01, 2021
As Many as 20% of Patients Would Benefit From Pharmacogenetic Testing
Researchers have suggested that a simple genetic test could be a huge benefit to public health; it could tell clinicians ...
FEB 11, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
We Have More in Common With Our Fish Ancestors Than We Knew
FEB 11, 2021
We Have More in Common With Our Fish Ancestors Than We Knew
Long ago, aquatic animals adapted to live on land, and this initial group of land-dwelling vertebrates are known as tetr ...
Loading Comments...