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Calves from Hornless Cattle

Researchers have bred calves from a bull that had undergone genome editing to be hornless, Discover's D-brief blog reports.

While some cattle like Angus are naturally hornless, others like Holsteins and Jerseys have their horns removed at a young age so they don't harm each other or farm workers. And rather than subject the animals to that treatment, researchers from the University of California, Davis, led by Alison Van Eenennaam have been exploring using genome editing to introduce the Angus hornless mutation into Holsteins.

Eenennaam and her colleagues now report in Nature Biotechnology that crossed a bull that had undergone genome editing and was homozygous for the dominant polled allele, with horned cows. This cross resulted in six heterozygous calves, all of which were hornless and healthy. This, the D-brief blog notes, indicates that the edited trait could be passed on. Additionally, the researchers sequenced the calves and found that no evidence of other, unintended genomic changes.

The D-brief blog notes that these cattle would be considered genetically modified, but adds that Van Eenennaam hopes that her results will lead the US Food and Drug Administration to be more lenient when the change uses within-species DNA.

"Improved genetics in our production system could be really beneficial for things like disease resistance, and fits many sustainability goals," she tells the D-brief blog.