Scientists have created genetically edited animals that can serve as “super dads” or “surrogate fathers.” This was reported by the BBC with reference to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Pigs, goats, cattle, and mice all produce sperm that carries the genetic material of donor animals. The researchers used a high-tech gene-editing tool to disable the male fertility gene in animal embryos. Eventually, the animals were born sterile but started producing sperm after injecting sperm-producing cells from donor animals.
This technique will allow surrogate males to produce offspring that carry the genetic material of valuable elite animals such as prize bulls, the scientists explain.
They added that this would be a step towards genetic improvement in livestock production to improve food production.
Professor John Oatley of the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine said the new discovery could have a major impact on tackling food insecurity around the world.
It has already been confirmed by scientists that surrogate producers have active donor sperm. And the experimental mice gave birth to healthy offspring carrying the genes of the sperm donor. Larger animals have not yet been bred in a new way. But Professor Bruce Whitelaw of the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh has already said the study has provided a compelling proof of concept.
“It shows the world that this technology is real. It can be used, – he stressed. “Now we must decide how best to use it productively to feed our growing population.”
According to the researchers, the new breeding technology could also help preserve endangered species.
For example, frozen rhino sperm can be used to restore an endangered species. However, scientists warn that the speed at which the new method can be implemented depends on policymakers.
There is no permission yet for human consumption of genetically edited livestock due to concerns about product safety, ethics and animal welfare.