Pigs have been bred with body fat 24% lower than normal pigs, using gene editing technology.
Researchers from China and the UK used emerging technology similar to genetic modification. The technique, CRIPSR-Cas9, allowed them to insert a mouse gene called UCP1 into the DNA which means the animals can regulate their temperature better by burning fat.
The 12 pigs successfully bred with the mouse gene had just under a quarter less body fat than normal pigs.
Details of the study can be found here.
Keeping a stable body temperature can be a problem for pigs, particularly piglets who tend to suffer in cold, winter months when they haven’t had the chance to store body fat over time.
Inserting the UCP1 gene could counter this problem.
“They could maintain their body temperature much better, which means that they could survive better in the cold weather,” lead study author Jian-Guo Zhao told NPR.
The main aim of the modification was to try and make pig-raising less expensive to farmers, as well as making pigs suffer less in cold weather.
It’s hoped that the gene could save farmers millions in heating and feeding costs, and also reduce piglet deaths in winter.