Animals With Bonus Features

A mouse can be genetically modified to run twice as far as normal mice or to not fear cats. As biologists develop better techniques to alter DNA and to add the altered DNA into cells so it can replicate, genetic engineering is becoming more practical. Animals that breed faster, have greater resistance against diseases and produce more nutritious food products are being worked on in labs.

Altered animals: Creatures with bonus features – [newscientist.com]

The first transgenic animals were produced by injecting DNA into eggs, implanting the eggs in animals and then waiting weeks or months to see if any offspring had incorporated the extra DNA. Often fewer than 1 in 100 had, making this a long, expensive process. “That’s just really inefficient,” says Scott Fahrenkrug, a geneticist at the University of Minnesota in St Paul.

In mice, geneticists found a way round this problem: producing cells with the desired modification first, before growing entire animals. The researchers alter the DNA in embryonic stem cells growing in a dish, then inject successfully modified cells into embryos. This yields chimeras with a mixture of cells that can be bred to produce mice in which all the cells are modified. It has become cheap and easy: there are now many millions of GM mice in labs worldwide, including extraordinary creations like the “supermouse” capable of running twice as far as normal, “brainbow” mice whose neurons light up in different colours and even mice that do not fear cats.

Giant Salmon Will Be First GM Animal Available for Eating – [telegraph.co.uk]

Usually Atlantic salmon do not grow during the winter and take three years to fully mature.

But by implanting genetic material from an eel-like species called ocean pout that grows all year round, US scientists have managed to make the fish grow to full size in 18 months.

They hope that the sterile GM salmon can offer an efficient and safe way to breed salmon in fish farms, so that the wild fish can be left in the oceans.

US watchdog the Food and Drug Administration is currently considering whether the GM Atlantic salmon, called AquAdvantage, is safe to eat. The fish could be on supermarket shelves within a year.

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