from the bacon++ dept.
eGenesis Bio, a startup co-founded by George Church and Luhan Yang, has used CRISPR/Cas9 to inactivate Porcine Endogenous Retrovirus (PERV) in piglets. It is one step towards the creation of pig organs that could be transplanted into humans:
"This is the first publication to report on PERV-free pig production," Yang, who is chief scientific officer at Egenesis, said in a news release. [...] There are two huge hurdles to getting animal-organ transplants to successfully work in humans — a process known as xenotransplantation. The first, Yang told Business Insider in March, is the virology, or the fact that pigs carry genes encoded with viruses that could transmit disease to humans — that's the PERV genes that Egenesis is working to deactivate.
The second hurdle, she said, is the immunology. Since the pig organ would be foreign to the body, the person's immune system might try to kick it out, rejecting the organ. Those proved too challenging for a slew of researchers going after this subject in the 1990s [open, DOI: 10.4103/0970-1591.33729] [DX]. Ideally, CRISPR will help tackle those issues "that were insurmountable before," Yang said. "We think the advancement of gene editing can help us address both of them," Yang said.
Inactivation of porcine endogenous retrovirus in pigs using CRISPR-Cas9 (DOI: 10.1126/science.aan4187) (DX)
Scientists at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have used the CRISPR gene editing technique to create pigs with less body fat. The GMO pigs may be better from both a cost and animal welfare standpoint:
Here's something that may sound like a contradiction in terms: low-fat pigs. But that's exactly what Chinese scientists have created using new genetic engineering techniques.
In a paper [DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1707853114] [DX] published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists report that they have created 12 healthy pigs with about 24 percent less body fat than normal pigs.
The scientists created low-fat pigs in the hopes of providing pig farmers with animals that would be less expensive to raise and would suffer less in cold weather. "This is a big issue for the pig industry," says Jianguo Zhao of the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, who led the research. "It's pretty exciting."
[...] The animals have less body fat because they have a gene that allows them to regulate their body temperatures better by burning fat. That could save farmers millions of dollars in heating and feeding costs, as well as prevent millions of piglets from suffering and dying in cold weather. "They could maintain their body temperature much better, which means that they could survive better in the cold weather," Zhao said in an interview.