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Gene editing advances raise cautious hope for healthier Labradors

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Hip dysplasia, an inherited disorder frequently found in Labradors, can cast a shadow over their lives, causing excruciating pain and restricting their mobility. However, in a scientific feat reminiscent of the pages of science fiction, scientists from South Korean biotech company ToolGen, as reported by the New Scientist, have used a powerful gene editing technique called CRISPR, with the aim of making this ailment a thing of the past for the nation’s most popular breed.

The breakthrough gave birth to two remarkable Labradors, aptly named Gene and Geny. These dogs were created through a meticulous process that involved modifying skin cells from a Labrador afflicted with hip dysplasia. Using CRISPR, the researchers corrected a specific mutation associated with the condition.

“The corrected cells were then fused with eggs whose DNA had been removed, to create cloned embryos that were implanted in a surrogate mother,” the researchers explain. This method ensured that Gene and Geny were clones of the original dog, but with their genetic destiny altered, reducing their risk of developing hip dysplasia.

This milestone in gene editing holds immense promise for Labradors and other breeds susceptible to hip dysplasia, such as golden retrievers, German shepherds, and Newfoundlands. These efforts could pave the way for a brighter, healthier future for these breeds, potentially sparing them from the pain and mobility limitations that hip dysplasia inflicts.

However, caution, as stressed by the researchers themselves, is paramount in any groundbreaking scientific advancement. Justine Shotton, president of the British Veterinary Association, shared this sentiment, stating, “Gene editing may offer an alternative to tackling the issue, but this experimental approach still comes with a lot of unknowns, particularly around its unintended consequences.”

Illustrating the need for a cautious approach, Gene and Geny raised eyebrows when it was found that they could emit a green glow under UV light.

CRISPR stands for ‘clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats’ and – for the scientifically minded – more information on the technique can be found here.

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