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Gene editing breakthrough could produce livestock 'super dads'

September 15, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Jon Oatley and research team on the campus of Washington State University, Friday, August 7, 2020.

Scientists have successfully created animal surrogate fathers that carry only the genes of donor animals -- nicknamed "super dads" -- in a step forward for gene editing with potential implications for global food production.

(CNN)Scientists have successfully created animal surrogate fathers that carry only the genes of donor animals -- nicknamed "super dads" -- in a step forward for gene editing with potential implications for global food production.

"With this technology, we can get better dissemination of desirable traits and improve the efficiency of food production," said Jon Oatley, a biologist at Washington State University who led the research team, in a news release from the university on Monday.

When researchers bred the surrogate mice, the offspring carried the genes of the donor male -- showing a "powerful proof of concept," said the news release.

Instead of artificial insemination or selective breeding, which can require surgery or keeping the animals in smaller spaces, the new technology could allow the animals to roam and breed at their own pace -- because when they do, the offspring will still have the desirable male donor genes.

The study could also attract controversy for a different reason: any advancement with gene editing technology inevitably raises questions of ethics, especially after a Chinese scientist reportedly created the world's first gene-edited babies in 2018, prompting international backlash.

"Even when the technology is advanced enough for commercialization, gene-edited surrogate sires could not be used in the food chain anywhere in the world under current regulations, even though their offspring would not be gene-edited," the release said.

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