Animal Biotechnologies

A range of methods are being used to create genetically modified and cloned animals for research and livestock purposes, and cross-species chimeras for research or to create organs for medical transplants.

Genetically modified animals are created by altering the genes of animal gametes or early embryos, and using those reproductive cells to impregnate an animal. Cloned animals are typically produced with a procedure known as somatic cell nuclear transfer, which involves transferring the nucleus of a body cell from the animal to be “copied” into an egg cell that has had its own nucleus removed. The resulting embryo-like construct can then be triggered to begin developing, and used to initiate a pregnancy. Chimeras are created by combining genetic material from different species, sometimes including humans, into a single embryo.

Many applications of animal biotechnologies are controversial for environmental, health, animal welfare, and social reasons. For example, only a small percentage of cloning attempts produce live offspring and many animal clones are unhealthy; some leading scientists believe that none are “normal.” Human-animal chimeras raise safety concerns about whether new diseases could be transmitted to humans, legal issues about whether such creatures can be patented and owned, and the troubling possibility that they could display human-like behavioral characteristics.


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When people talk about the gene-editing technology CRISPR, it’s usually accompanied by adjectives like “revolutionary” or “world-changing.” For this reason, it’s no surprise that a study out last month questioning just how game-changing the technology really...

Biopolitical Times

A very small study published in Nature Methods on May 29 found that supposedly precise gene editing may cause “hundreds of unintended mutations” in unexpected parts of the genome. Only two mice were involved, but both had many unexpected changes in their genomes.

This sounds bad.

It may turn out to be a real problem, but it is less surprising than it might appear at first. Off-target effects have been a concern about gene editing from the beginning,...

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For the past few years, a new scientific tool known as CRISPR-Cas9 has been hailed as the future of medicine....

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Nearly 40 years after the world was jolted by the birth of the first test-tube baby, a new revolution in...

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