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This Little Piggy…

BGI has created miniature pigs using gene editing that it will soon sell as pets, Nature News reports.

BGI originally created the pigs — by using the gene-editing tool TALENs to turn off certain genes like the growth hormone receptor gene in the already small Bama pig breed — for use as models of human disease.

But, Nature News says that at the Shenzhen International Biotech Leaders Summit, BGI announced that it would begin selling the 33-pound pigs for 10,000 yuan, or about USD$1,600. Down the line, the institute says that customers will be able to select pigs with certain coat colors or patterns. It adds that the proceeds will benefit its research activities.

"It's questionable whether we should impact the life, health and well-being of other animal species on this planet light-heartedly," Jens Boch from Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg, who helped develop the TALENs approach, tells Nature News.

Others note engineering of dogs and cats will likely follow. Though gene-edited pets wouldn't differ much from conventionally bred ones, that doesn't mean it's a good idea, Jeantine Lunshof, a Harvard Medical School bioethicist, says, adding that it's "stretching physiological limits for the sole purpose of satisfying idiosyncratic aesthetic preferences of humans".

As for the micropigs, Crystal Kim-Han, who runs a pig rescue operation, notes that pigs like to root, a behavior that might not be welcome in an apartment.