Scientists from the Roslin Institute of Technology, Edinburgh have created a piglet through Gene Modification - a technique simpler than the existing cloning technique. The piglet named ‘Pig 26’ is the first animal to be created through a process called ‘gene editing’.
The new method is simpler and more efficient as it works on the basis of a precise process wherein researchers snip the animals’ DNA and insert a new genetic material. They change one single ‘letter’ from the three billion chemical letters present in a genome - a technique that mimics natural genetic mutation very closely. Unless a complete audit is done, figuring out whether the animal has been created through gene editing is difficult since it does not leave any mark in the animals’ genome other than the mutation.
A remarkable achievement in this case is that it improves the efficiency of GM animals between 10 and 15 percent compared to the earlier efficiency of one percent achieved by the standard technique of genetic engineering. Previous technique required the use of ordinary tissue cells and antibiotic resistance markers to produce GM animals.
Scientists developed this technique to make the animal more resistant to disease and, it also does not involve the use of antibiotic-resistance genes, which was a major concern for anti-gene modification campaigners. This would pave the way for genetically engineered livestock to become more acceptable and address the problem of food shortage in the background of growing global population.
The aim of the research is to create GM pigs which are resistant to Africa’s swine fever virus. They are also trying to introduce specific DNA mutations into domestic pigs that are known to inject disease resistant genes into wild pigs of Africa. Scientists from the Roslin Institute of Technology also hold the record for creating ‘Dolly the Sheep’ in 1996.