New genetically modified Beagles were developed in China
Chinese scientists claim that they managed to use the gene editing tool to breed special dogs. They created Beagles with double amount of muscles deleting the gene that produces the myostatin. This type of protein suppresses growth and differentiation of the muscular tissue.
During their work the Chinese team used the gene editing technology – the CRISPR that was used not so long ago to produce pigs with organs suitable for transplantation to humans’ organism.
The scientists injected in embryos of 65 dogs chemicals and the Cas9 molecule to destroy or damage both gene copies that are in charge of producing the myostatin. Performing this procedure they wanted bodies of Beagles not to produce the protein that inhibits muscles growth. In some time 27 puppies were born but only two of them (male and female) had both copies of “muscle gene” turned off.
Two newly produced dogs were called Hercules and Tiangou and, as researchers claim, they will be stronger and faster that will make them more suitable for hunt and police work. It is important to mention that the gene editing of Hercules wasn’t complete – there is a small per cent of muscles that is still producing myostatin. However, Tiangou has no myostatin and her muscles from the very birth were bigger than of other puppies.
By the way, the same damages can be encountered in nature. For example, Whippets have this mutation and even some humans. American scientists are now trying to block the myostatin production using the experimental gene therapy. They try to slow down the muscles loss of boys who have Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Lai with colleagues say that in very close future they are planning to create dogs with other DNA modification that will also include those imitating human illnesses like the Parkinson disease or muscular dystrophy. One will be able to test on those animals medical treatments’ methods. So to say, this research from one hand is very important in terms of medical progress. On the other hand, it will lead to some new ethical problems.
“The goal of the research is to explore an approach to the generation of new disease dog models for biomedical research,” says Lai Liangxue (one of the scientists). “Dogs are very close to humans in terms of metabolic, physiological, and anatomical characteristics.”
Lai mentioned that his team is not planning to breed such mutated Beagles as pets. However, he accepts that maybe other scientists will commercialize these genetically modified dogs changing their size, developing their intellect or eliminating genetic illnesses.
For example, in September representatives of the BGI (Beijing Genomic Institute) claimed that they are starting to sell miniature pigs created by gene editing and the price for one pig is 1 600 USD.
Presently, genetically modified Beagles live in the Key Laboratory of Regenerative Biology at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health where, as researches say, are more than 2 thousands Beagles used for biomedical researches.
It is also good to mention that this is not the first time when Chinese scientists change animals with the help of CRISPR technology. They used this editing method for creating genetically modified goats, hares, rats and monkeys. Also, the genetic editing methodic was used to change the genome of a human embryo. Then scientists tried to change the gene that is in charge of developing the beta-thalassemia.
If you are interested enough to read the full article with all the details of this research you can find the work of Chinese scientists on the website of the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology.
Photo: © MIT Technology Review