Genetic manipulation has almost become the new normal for science right now. As exciting as this will be to explore, manipulating DNA is something that will always remain controversial at best. In Beijing, scientists have developed a better type of pig by reducing its body fat by as much as 24% with the help of protein from mice. It’s an interesting step toward more efficient pork production, to say the least.
Less Body Fat for Pigs
Manipulating DNA – either human or animal – is not something a lot of people are too comfortable with. After all, we have learned to live with what Mother Nature has given us. Efforts to go against the laws of nature usually tend to backfire in one way or another. At the same time, genetic manipulation may be the only path forward to provide (temporary) relief for some matters in immediate need of addressing.
Pork production, for example, has become somewhat of a problematic activity over the past decade. That isn’t because there is a shortage of pigs, mind you. Rather, it’s due to a decline in the value of the meat produced while overall costs continue to increase. At one point, the cost of raising pigs will outweigh the revenue farmers receive in return. This will put them out of business, while consumers will pay much higher prices for their pork altogether.
Scientists in Beijing may have found a viable solution to address this problem. Although it remains to be seen if this is a long-term solution, the initial tests seem somewhat promising. Thanks to genetic manipulation, researchers have created a new breed of pig. More specifically, the test litters showed a 24% reduction in the pigs’ body fat. What’s more, those pigs stayed just as warm as they would have otherwise been. This is a big first step toward making pork production more efficient and reduce overhead costs. Plus, it may even create healthier pigs.
As is always the case, topics like this one are met with a lot of skepticism. Experimenting on animals for any purpose is a very touchy subject. Combine that with genetic manipulation, and people will get riled up pretty quickly. Moreover, it is quite strange to think of pigs as having mice protein in their system. For some reason, that seems to have resulted in this massive fat loss. From those proteins, these pigs generated brown fat rather than the “fatty fat” these animals are best known for.
The mice protein was injected into baby pigs using CRISPR gene editing technology. The animals have not suffered any side effects so far, although a test period of six months is still rather short to draw proper conclusions on that front. Moreover, only 12 male piglets have been bred out of 2,553 embryos so far. This hints that it is not a clear-cut solution by any means, and a lot of research has yet to occur. Still, the initial results are somewhat promising so far.
For those wondering, it does not appear these new pigs will be coming to market anytime soon. Especially not in the US, as China is a very odd country when it comes to meat production and exports. Moreover, FDA approval is highly unlikely when it comes to experiments like these. For now, this experiment is nothing more than a proof of concept. Whether or not it has any commercial value is a question no one can answer honestly right now.