Chinese researchers create genetically engineered pigs with less body fat

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genetically engineered pigs with less body fat
The genetically modified low-fat piglets

Genetically engineered pigs

Chinese researchers developed a new kind of pig with 24% less body fat than regular pigs. The genetically engineered pigs that stay warmer, grow faster and healthier, all while reducing costs for breeders.

The animals have less body fat because they have a gene that regulates their body temperatures better by burning fat. That could save farmers millions of dollars in heating and feeding costs.

“This is a big issue for the pig industry,” says Jianguo Zhao of the Institute of Zoology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, who led the research. “It’s pretty exciting.”

CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology

The researchers use a special protein known for regulating body temperature and burning fat called UCP1. They added the protein using CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology.

The researchers insert that protein into baby pigs, creating a new brown fat-carrying pig. Although, the scientists successfully birthed just 12 male piglets from a total of 2,553 embryos.

Genetically engineered pigs

According to researchers, the lack of brown fat in regular pigs could be a key reason they get so chubby in the first place. Many piglets die from cold stress and the ones survive often require heat lamps to stay warm in their first weeks of life.

Exposed to cold, the discovered pigs manage to keep their body temperature stable for hours, while regular pigs body temperatures maintained lower.

At 6 months old, the brown fat pigs had a 24% reduced fat content. They didn’t weigh much less than normal pigs, but they had a higher ratio of lean meat on their bodies and thinner back fat as well. However, these piggies probably not coming to market.

Nutritionists say, low fat meat food is not really all that healthy, anyway. While, the saturated fat content in pork still gets a bad strike, health experts tend to encourage healthy overall eating habits instead of fat restriction.

However, the scientists successfully proven that they can engineer a skinnier pig than nature.

More information: [PNAS]