Magazine article Newsweek

Tuberculosis-Resistant Cows Engineered by Chinese Scientists; the Animals Have an Improved Ability to Resist Tuberculosis, Which Can Often Be Fatal for Cattle

Magazine article Newsweek

Tuberculosis-Resistant Cows Engineered by Chinese Scientists; the Animals Have an Improved Ability to Resist Tuberculosis, Which Can Often Be Fatal for Cattle

Article excerpt

Byline: Douglas Main

For the first time, researchers have genetically modified cows to be resistant to the bacterium that causes bovine tuberculosis. This disease is well-controlled in most developed countries, but it can often be fatal for cattle in developing countries and spread to people and other animals.

Researchers from China's Northwest A&F University used a technique called CRISPR to insert a gene associated with tuberculosis resistance into 20 cows, 11 of which lived past the age of 3 months. These animals were more resistant to tuberculosis than animals who weren't modified. They also didn't show any unintended consequences of genetic modification. A study describing these findings was published in the journal Genome Biology on January 31.

CRISPR is an intensively researched tool developed in the last couple years, which relative to previous techniques, can quickly and cheaply insert genes into specific locations in an organism's genome. It has been used to tweak many organisms, including modifying human embryos in the lab and correcting the gene responsible for Duchenne muscular dystrophy in mice.

In this case, the scientists used a new version of the technique, which inserts a gene into a single snip within one strand of DNA at a desired location in the cow genome. Previously, CRISPR involved the use of a molecular "scissors" that cleaved both strands of DNA. The advantage of this new technique is that it is potentially safer, says Suk See De Ravin, a researcher with the Laboratory of Host Defenses, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who wasn't involved in the paper. …

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