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Are Disease-Resistant Pigs the Future?


Forget designer babies; let's talk about disease-resistant pigs.

Forget designer babies; let’s talk about disease-resistant pigs. Researchers from the University of Missouri recently teamed with British scientists from Genus, an animal genetics firm, to develop pigs that are resistant to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus (PRRSv), a costly and devastating disease. PRRSv causes reproductive impairment and respiratory disease in pigs of any age. The disease was first detected in the United States in 1987 and to date, no vaccine has been effective against it.

According to the study published in Nature Biotechnology, researchers used precise gene editing to breed pigs that do not produce a specific protein (CD163) necessary for PRRSv to spread. When the researchers exposed the genetically altered pigs to PRRSv, they did not contract the virus. As a result, Reuters.com quoted Genus Chief Scientific Officer Jonathan Lightner as saying that gene editing is "a potential game-changer for the pork industry."

In addition, the researchers did not notice any adverse effects or development changes in the pigs as a result of the genetic alteration. Kevin Wells, co-author of the study and assistant professor of animal sciences at Missouri is quoted as stating, “This discovery could save the swine industry hundreds of millions of dollars every year. It also could have an impact on how we address other substantial diseases in other species.” Although further testing is needed, the researchers signed an exclusive global licensing deal for potential future commercialization of virus-resistant pigs with Genus.

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