Gene-Edited Muscle Dogs From China

Gene editing has been used for the first time to produce customized dogs; Chinese researchers have created beagles with double the muscle mass by deleting a gene called myostatin.

(China's gene-edited muscle dogs)

The dogs have “more muscles and are expected to have stronger running ability, which is good for hunting, police (military) applications,” Liangxue Lai, a researcher with the Key Laboratory of Regenerative Biology at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, said in an e-mail.

Lai and 28 colleagues reported their results last week in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, saying they intend to create dogs with other DNA mutations, including ones that mimic human diseases such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy, in order to test drugs and other treatments. “The goal of the research is to explore an approach to the generation of new disease dog models for biomedical research,” says Lai. “Dogs are very close to humans in terms of metabolic, physiological, and anatomical characteristics.”

The Chinese beagle project was led by Lai and Gao Xiang, a specialist in genetic engineering of mice at Nanjing University. The dogs are being kept at the Guangzhou General Pharmaceutical Research Institute, which says on its website that it breeds more than 2,000 beagles a year for research. Beagles are commonly used in biomedical research in both China and the U.S.

Genome editing refers to newly developed techniques that let scientists easily disable genes or rearrange their DNA letters.

SF fans may recall the modded dogs in John Brunner's 1976 novel Shockwave Rider; they were genetically modified for higher intelligence, and were used to sniff out people who lie or use undesirable substances based on their body odor.

...something moved, emerging from shadow beside the workbench. A dog. A vast, slow-moving graceful dog whose ancestry might have included Great Dane, Irish wolfhound, possibly Husky or Chinook... plus something else, something strange, for its skull was improbably high-domed and its eyes, deep-set, were disturbingly uncanine.

"No need to be alarmed," the man rumbled... "Never met a dog like this before? You're in for an educational experience.

From Technology Review.

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