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CRISPR for Livestock Health

Gene editing could help prevent farm animals like pigs from falling ill, Discover's D-brief blog reports.

Researchers from the University of Missouri and Kansas State University used CRISPR/Cas to introduce a stop codon into the ANPEP gene, which encodes amino peptidase N (ANPEP), as they report in Transgenic Research. ANPEP is thought to be a receptor for both the transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) and porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), which cause disease and death among piglets. D-brief notes that PEDV killed nearly 7 million pigs in 2013.

By introducing this edit, the researchers were able to generate pigs that appeared immune to TGEV, though were still susceptible to PEDV. They challenged pigs with the null ANPEP phenotype and wild-type pigs with either TGEV or PEDV. While the knock-out pigs were confirmed by PCR to have viral nucleic acid present, they did not support a TGEV infection.

"One of the greatest concerns for US producers is outbreaks of new [viral] diseases," Kansas State's Raymond Rowland, a co-author of the new study, says in a statement, according to D-brief. "This work demonstrates the importance of [gene-editing] technology in solving complex disease problems."

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