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article imageGene-edited micropigs are going to be sold as pets

By Owen Weldon     Oct 1, 2015 in Odd News
Shenzhen - Cutting-edge gene-editing techniques have products a byproduct, micropigs that a Chinese genomics institute will sell as pets.
The institute, BGI, originally made the micropigs as models for human disease. BGI applied a gene-editing technique to the pig, a small breed known as Bana. About a week ago, BGI reveleaed it had plans to start selling the pigs as pets.
When mature, the pigs weigh around 33 pounds, or approximately the same as a medium-sized dog. BGI quoted a price tag of around $1,600 for the pigs. In the future, customers will be able to buy pigs that have different coat colors and patterns.
Gene editing has been taking the biology world by storm, mainly thanks to CRISPR/Cas9, which is a technique, and the technology opens up the possibility of curing genetic diseases, as well as giving animals, crops or even people more desirable traits.
The scientists who modified the pigs didn't use CRISPR/Cas9, as they used a different technique that involves the use of TALENs, which can target a specific gene and then disable it.
In order to make the micropigs, the scientists cloned a Bama pig and used TALENs to disable one of the two copies of a gene for growth hormone receptors. This lead to the pigs not growing to normal size. The next thing the scientists did was breed some of the cloned male pigs with regular female pigs. As a result, half of the offspring were micro-size.
Jens Boch, who helped create the TALENs method of gene editing, is wary about this process. He said that it was questionable as to whether people should impact the life, health and well-being of other animal species on this planet.
BGI said that the micropigs exhibited no negative health effects as a result of the genetic-engineering process.
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