More muscular pigs could be on the way as scientists in China and South Korea have claimed to have used a very simple gene tweak to erase the need for selectivebreeding practices as seen in other farm animals such as the Belgian Blue cow. Something that would otherwise takes generations to achieve has been sped up by this much simpler process.
Unfortunately no genetically modified animal has ever been cleared for human consumption anywhere in the world. This being said this is a growing practise as scientists are seeking to create safer farming animals by making some immune to diseases such as the African swine fever virus, removing horns on cows which are currently burned off with acid or irons and if an animal can produce more meat then it could help tackle the issue of world hunger.
The team have not yet published their finished results however we do know the process that they used. The team first altered the genes of pig fetal cells. A DNA binding protein was used to guide the ‘cutting enzyme’ which cut out a specific gene MSTN. The cell naturally repairs the DNA and puts it back together again. The cells that were successfully altered were then transferred to an egg cell; 32 cloned pigs were created in the process.
Experts have said that these pigs do have the traits of “double muscled” animals, such as very pronounced rear ends. These traits can also be found in the Belgian Blue cow. However this hasn’t been a flawless process, only just over half of the 32 cloned pigs made it to 18 months old and at this moment there are only 2 that have survived; only one is considered healthy.
While there hasn’t been any genetically modified animals in the food chain to date these scientists are planning on selling the sperm of these muscular pigs to farmers and have them impregnate their livestock with it. This would result in more muscular offspring than the tradition pig but also substantially healthier than than the genetically ones.