Amazing Billion Dollar Science Discovery: Genetically Altered Pigs Are Immune To PRRS Virus

Posted: Jun 25 2018, 6:44am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Amazing Billion Dollar Science Discovery: Genetically Altered Pigs Are Immune To PRRS Virus
Image Credit: Roslin Institute, Edinburgh

Gene Modification Can Save Billions of Dollars for Pork Industry.

A new research shows that genetic modifications in pigs make them immune to the virus PRRS, PRRS is also technically known as Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome.

During to clinical trials when the genetically modified pigs were exposed to PRRS virus they showed no signs of infection. Long-term studies are still going on, but for now, the genetic modification showed no adverse effects on pig’s physical health and other features.

PRRS is one of the major diseases that cause the death of pigs all around the world, on average the pork industry in Europe and USA alone suffers annual losses of more than $2.5 billion (£1.75bn).

PRRS virus attacks young pig’s respiratory system and results in breathing issues; this virus causes more death in pigs than all other diseases combined. It is also a major problem for pig farming and their reproduction. If a pregnant pig is infected by this virus, there are no chances for the sows to survive.

This deadly virus attacks a particular kind of cell surface in pigs known as CD163, so a team of researchers at University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute carried out a series of genetic modifications in pigs to make them immune to this costly disease.

To do so, they altered pig’s DNA by removing a small part of CD163 gene, for the experiments the team of researchers from University of Edinburgh’s Roslin Institute was also joined by a team of experts from Genus PLC. Genes PLC is a world-famous company that works in the field of animal genetic testing.

Although earlier lab experimented had confirmed that altered cells were not attacked by PRRS virus, this was the first time a number of real pigs were exposed to this deadly virus and none of them showed any signs of infection or illness.

Blood tests taken from the exposed pigs also came negative of any kind of infection.

“These results are very exciting and further underscore the potential, through gene editing, to provide incredible benefits to the global pork industry, and society as a whole, by improving animal health. We look forward to furthering collaboration with the University on this exciting project.” Said Jonathan Lightner, Chief Scientific Officer, Genus PLC, “PRRS is endemic in most pig producing countries worldwide. Vaccines have mostly failed to stop the spread of the virus – which continues to evolve rapidly.”

Earlier few other groups tried genetic modification in pigs by removing the whole CD163 receptor, but it raised some concerns that these modifications might bring side effects.

During this new experiment, the scientists only removed a small part of CD163 cell; this reduced the risks of side effects, and the CD163 cell can still carry out its normal functions in a pig’s body.

Most countries in the world do not allow genetically modified animals to be bred commercially and be a part of the public food chain; it is still unclear how the authorities will respond to genetically edited pigs.

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