March 03, 2014
CRISPR And Human Germ Line Genetic Editing

An article in the Gray Lady about CRISPR technology for genetic editing includes the observation that this technique makes it easier to modify DNA that is passed along to progeny.

“It does make it easier to genetically engineer the human germ line,” said Craig C. Mello, a Nobel laureate at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, referring to making genetic changes that could be passed to future generations.

Germ line genetic engineering will be done in other species first. Imagine genetic alteration of assorted livestock. Put genes in cows or pigs so they'll resist their biggest diseases without antibiotics in the milk and meat. Or how about making sheep produce alpaca wool? For that matter, make cows produce alpaca wool so that in cold Wisconsin dairy farmers could stand to have a second stream of income from cutting off the wool in the spring. The wool would also reduce calories burned (or energy costs for space heating) to keep the cows warm in the winter.

Germline genetic engineering would enable repair of many inbred dog breeds which carry harmful genetic mutations. No more deaf dalmations. Be gone with hip dysplasia too.

CRISPR can also be used for microRNA silencing.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2014 March 03 09:33 PM 

bbartlog said at March 4, 2014 6:38 AM:

Cow thermodynamics are already such that you don't want to put wool on them. They've been bred to process a large amount of feed (metabolizing it generates heat) and consequently are most comfortable right around 0 degrees celsius. Insulating them would put them under heat stress when the temperature went above freezing. Also the market for wool is kind of depressed...

Overall though I think you're right. I'm waiting for someone to deliberately give their kid that myostatin mutation (the one that gives you abnormal amounts of muscle). Speaking of which, that German kid who was homozygous for it should be around 13 years old now. I wonder how he's doing.

Engineer-Poet said at March 5, 2014 6:41 AM:

Cows do have hairy hides.  Maybe they'd be more comfortable in the summer if they were shaved.  Make their hair worth shaving, and that could be a profit center.

Alpaca wool and cheddar cheese from the same source, what a concept!

Tj Green said at March 5, 2014 3:30 PM:

Removal of damaging genetic mutations,increase of lifespan and intelligence. What we want for our dogs we also want for our own species.The wolf has done well from this strategic alliance with humans.

Ronald Brak said at March 5, 2014 4:41 PM:

Getting a cow to grow alpaca wool sounds very difficult to me as we probably don't know the combination of genes that would make that possible. Putting alpaca genes in cows is unlikely to do the trick as a cow is a different environment than a South American camelid and so the genes are unlikely to have the same effect. Of course looking at alpaca genes could be very useful in working out how it could be done.

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