• Genome Editing with CRISPR-Cas9

Genome Editing with CRISPR-Cas9 (Photo : McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT/YouTube)

Scientists in China claimed to have developed high resistance to bovine tuberculosis that is fatal to cows by altering the animal's gene.

The study, which was published in Genome Biology, said the scientists used a genome-editing tool, the CRISPR technology, in successfully modifying the genes of cow to be highly resistant to tuberculosis.

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The project is remarkably significant not only to China, but also to other countries where livestock is plagued by tuberculosis.

According to the study, the researchers involved in the project were from Northwest A&F University in China.

They inserted the genetically modified NRAMP1 gene into the bovine foetal fibroblasts genome, which were later developed in a laboratory into embryos. The embryos were then injected into 20 female cows.

The calves, upon their birth, were exposed to tuberculosis-carrying bacteria and they reportedly manifested high resistance compared with other normal calves. The scientists were able to develop 11 calves, which are now more than three months old.

Aside from increased resistance to tuberculosis, the calves also did not manifest any unintended or unnecessary effects of genetic alteration.

The lead author of the study, Dr. Yong Zhang, said they used CRISPR/Cas9n tool to introduce NRAMP1 into the genome of a cow.

"Importantly, our method produced no off-target effects on the cow genetics, meaning that the CRISPR technology we employed may be better suited to producing transgenic livestock with purposefully manipulated genetics," Zhang was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, a researcher connected with Laboratory of Hose Defenses, a component of U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Suk See De Ravin, shared the potential of the new technique used by scientists in China. Suk is not part of the team involved in genetically modifying the cow's genes.

Suk said that CRISPR/Cas9n is "potentially safer" and the overall success in China "demonstrates the feasibility of introducing a desired gene of interest," as reported by Newsweek.

Moreover, Suk quipped that the possibility of raising livestock animals with increased resistance to infections might remarkably decrease the "overuse of antibiotics in livestock."