There are now 'low fat' pigs, thanks to science
Ready for a world with low-fat pork bacon?
Chinese researchers used the gene editing tool CRISPR Cas-9 to create "low fat" pigs capable of surviving longer when they're at a younger age.
The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) found the pigs produced a leaner meat and were better at surviving colder temperatures.
Researchers believe the genetically modified pigs could reduce economic losses and help boost pig welfare.
The study involved creating the swine through CRISPR, and adding an uncoupling protein making it easier for them to generate heat.
Results showed piglets with the uncoupling protein "showed an improved ability to maintain body temperature during acute cold exposure, but they did not have alterations in physical activity levels or total daily energy expenditure."
A tool like CRISPR opens the door to significant advancements in gene editing. Tools could be used to create not only more resilient animals like pigs, but food like fruits and vegetables.
However, use of tools like CRISPR carry ethical concerns, said Jennifer Doudna, a professor in the departments of Molecular and Cell Biology and Chemistry at the University of California—Berkeley. Doudna is considered one of the pioneers of CRISPR technology.
"CRISPR is a profoundly powerful tool and we must ensure that the public has a strong voice in how it is used," said Doudna. "An informed public discourse will help ensure that CRISPR does not contribute an additional layer of inequality in our society."
In the case of the study creating low-fat pigs, Doudna cites the potential for CRISPR to provide value to society. "CRISPR can be used as a strategy to lower agriculture costs, boost the welfare of a particular species, and increase the nutritional value of a potential food source for humans at a time when climate change is beginning to threaten crops globally."