Gene-editing advance boosts breeding potential from “prized” pigs

A major advance in gene-editing techniques, developed by scientists in Scotland and the US, has the potential to help improve stocks of farmed pigs by boosting supplies of sperm from top quality sires.

Researchers at Roslin Institute, Edinburgh, working with scientists at Washington State University, the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture, have created male pigs that could be used as surrogates capable of producing sperm that contains the genetic blueprint of sought-after pigs.

The surrogates have functional testes but do not have specialised stem cells that are required to produce sperm containing their own genetic information. As a result, stem cells from male pigs with desirable characteristics, such as greater resilience to disease, could be transplanted into the surrogates to produce limitless supplies of their valuable sperm.

The team behind the development claim the breakthrough will allow farmers to preserve sperm from prized animals in perpetuity.

“This could dramatically improve the production efficiency and quality of farmed pigs, as well as enhancing other desirable traits such as disease resilience in production animals,” said Professor Bruce Whitelaw, Head of Developmental Biology at Roslin.

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