China researchers use CRISPR to develop TB-resistant cows

1 Feb 2017

Image: 1000 Words/Shutterstock

The dawn of the CRISPR age of biology has proved as exciting as perhaps any preceding era, with the creation of TB-resistant cows now being reported.

Live cows with increased tuberculosis resistance have been developed by Chinese researchers, thanks to yet another major step forward for CRISPR genome editing.

Dr Yong Zhang, lead author of the research, used a version of the CRISPR system called CRISPR/Cas9n to successfully insert a TB resistance gene (NRAMP1) into the cow genome.

According to the research – published in Genome Biology – Zhang and a team from Northwest A&F University in China successfully developed these new cattle.

“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,” said Zhang.

The researchers inserted the NRAMP1 gene into the genome of bovine foetal fibroblasts, which were developed into embryos in the lab and inserted into female cows.

The calves were born and, after being exposed to TB-causing bacteria, they showed increased resistance in comparison to other calves. 11 were developed in total.

Last year, UK researchers were given the go-ahead to modify human embryos using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing. The technique, developed this decade, allows scientists to cut and edit the sequence of DNA.

Genetic heart defects can, in theory, be repaired through CRISPR. Cutting HIV out of human cells can be achieved too.

Earlier this year, researchers from The Scripps Research Institute in the US developed the first new semi-synthetic organisms with an expanded DNA code.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic