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Selection of sex by genetic modification method may save animals from suffering

Scientists have used gene editing technology only to create male or female offspring in mice. Their technique can prevent the extinction of hundreds of thousands of mice whose sex does not match what is needed in research. This method can also prevent the killing of millions of rooster chicks, which become extinct because they do not lay eggs.

The British government is considering licensing the use of gene editing for use in the UK livestock industry. The new technology, described in the journal Nature Communications, inactivates genes involved in fetal growth. This system can be programmed to act on male or female embryos in the early stages of development (at the 16 to 32 cell stage).

Mice

In new research, mice have been genetically engineered to produce only male or female offspring

Researchers believe that their technique could also be effective for farm animals. They are in talks with the Reslin Institute, one of the pioneers of gene editing in cattle, to conduct experimental scientific studies. the doctor Peter Ellis In an interview with the BBC, the University of Kent said that if the results of the laboratory phase were to be used commercially, it could have a far-reaching impact on animal welfare. And Afrod:

Every year, between 4 and 6 billion chickens are killed in the poultry industry worldwide. We can create a system in which eggs are laid instead of having chicks that are killed after birth, that is, when they have a nervous system and are likely to feel pain; But never let a chicken come out of them.

Chicken

Millions of roosters are killed in Britain every year, according to Compassion in World Farming

In the first place, the new technique could reduce the number of laboratory mice that are killed; Because special medical tests require a male or female. the doctor James Turner The Francis Creek Institute in London has found 25,000 research papers published in the last five years that required only male or female mice. He said:

The number of mice used varies from case to case; But the total use of mice easily reaches hundreds of thousands. This can have an immediate and valuable impact on scientific experiments.

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According to a recent independent report, any legislation that allows gene editing on farm animals must take into account the welfare of the animals. Peter Stevenson, One of the authors of the report, is generally cautious about gene editing; Because it believes that this technology can be used to strengthen industrial and intensive livestock; But he expressed satisfaction with the possibility of using this method to select the sex of chickens. He said:

We support its use to improve animal welfare; Such as ensuring that chickens only produce female chickens; Because it prevents the annual slaughter of millions of unwanted male chickens in Britain.

Barney Reed The RSPCA (UK Animal Welfare Charity) said the rules for the technology need to be carefully defined. Dr. Ellis also stated:

Any potential use in agriculture requires widespread public debate and change in legislation. From a scientific point of view, there is a lot of work to be done in the next few years. More research is needed; First to develop specific gene editing tools for different species and then to test their safety and effectiveness.

method

Male or female mammals are determined by sex chromosomes. Females have a pair of X chromosomes that inherit one from the mother and the other from the father. Males, however, have an X chromosome that they inherited from their mother and an Y chromosome that they inherited from their father.

Gene edited sex selection

The researchers were able to prevent the growth of XX or XY embryos in mice by inactivating a specific gene, and as a result, the growth of these embryos stopped in the very early stages; That is, when they had about 16 to 32 cells. They were able to select one sex by inserting one half of the Crispr-Cas9 editing molecule into the mother’s DNA, which inactivates the gene, and the other half into the father’s X or Y chromosome (depending on the sex required).

The gene is inactivated only if both Crispr-Cas9 fragments are present together. If one half of the father’s editing molecule is on the Y chromosome, when combined with the mother DNA, which contains the other half of the editing molecule, the resulting male embryo, which has XY chromosomes, will have both parts of the molecule that inactivate the gene. The embryo prevents. However, all female embryos that did not inherit the molecule from their father will grow naturally. To make all the offspring male, the Crispr-Cas9 half is inserted into the father’s X chromosome.


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