First ever gene edited pigs resistant to three major infectious diseases
Published: Sep 21, 2020 01:32 PM

In this photo handed out by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a pig model for Huntington's disease is pictured at a laboratory in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, March 28, 2018. A Chinese team of scientists has established a pig model of Huntington's disease (HD), an inherited neurodegenerative disease, using genetic engineering technology. In a study published in "Cell" on Thursday, researchers anticipated that the pigs could be a practical way to test treatments for HD, which is caused by a gene encoding a toxic protein that causes brain cells to die. (Photo: Xinhua)

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) recently developed the world’s first breeding material that has made pigs resistant to three major infectious diseases through gene editing, while allowing pigs to maintain normal functions, People’s Daily reported on Monday. 

The gene editing technology, co-developed by the Institute of Animal Sciences of CAAS and universities from China and Canada, can prevent pigs from being infected by porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, the porcine transmissible gastroenteritis virus and the porcine delta coronavirus, according to media reports.

Research results will be published online in the international journal of biology eLife.

Chief expert of the research team Li Qui explained that various infectious diseases pose great threats to the pig industry, causing hundreds of billions of dollars in economic losses in 2019 alone. 

The porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome, also known as “blue ear disease,” targeted by the gene editing project, is one of the deadliest threats. It is highly contagious and can cause premature delivery, late abortion, stillbirth, weak fetuses in pregnant sows and other reproductive disorders, as well as respiratory diseases in piglets.

The other two diseases curbed by the technology belong to the coronavirus family, and can lead to fatal diarrhea in piglets. 

Up until now, there has no effective way to prevent or control these diseases. Precise genome editing, however, could achieve that goal by deleting receptor genes that mediate virus invasion, therefore blocking the viruses’ entrance into the pig’s body. 

After years of observation, breeding, performance testing and slaughter experiments, it appears that normal reproduction and production performances of pigs are not affected by the gene editing technology, experts said. 

Global Times