A team of researchers has created the very first gene-edited dogs using a cloning process that involves skin cells.
South Korean biotech company ToolGen, along with Chungnam National University, created the gene-edited dogs and used CRISPR to remove a specific gene known as DJ-1 from the dogs' genomes. The DJ-1 gene is linked to cancer, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, and strokes.
According to the researchers, many purebred dogs can suffer from many inherited genetic conditions such as heart, skin, and eye problems, but this new gene-editing technique has the potential to remove the genes that cause those conditions before the dogs are birthed. The researchers spoke to The Telegraph and said their goal is to cure dogs of "pathogenic mutations induced by inbreeding".
"This is the first step of our research for establishing this genome editing method in dogs. The ultimate goal of our research is curing dogs, using this technology, from pathogenic mutations induced by inbreeding. We have a plan to use this technology to recover pathogenic mutations from various dogs and are developing gene therapy products to cure animals," said Okjae Koo, from ToolGen.
As for the cloning process and how it works, researchers took a skin cell and removed the nucleus of an egg, and replaced it with a nucleus from a beagle skin cell - this process is called somatic cell nuclear transfer. Once the egg clone has been created, its placed into a surrogate mother to be grown and birthed.