Scientists in China say they are now able to gene edit dogs using the new CRISPR tool which is both relatively inexpensive and much more precise than anything that has preceded it.
Is their first project to make healthier dogs? Nope. It's to make diseased ones. Researchers with the Key Laboratory of Regenerative Biology at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health, say they intend to create dogs with DNA mutations to mimic human diseases such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy.
The first mutation out of the box was a simple deletion of a gene called myostatin which resulted in a dog with double the normal amount of muscle mass.
The Key Laboratory of Regenerative Biology says it has no plans to breed extra-muscular beagles as pets, but other teams in China are not restricting themselves. A different Chinese Institute, BGI, has already begun selling gene-edited miniature pigs as pets.
Dogs are a particularly attractive research animal for gene-editing because many big visual changes, such as fur type and ear shape, are controlled by a single gene. The CanMap gene research project determined that every single biological difference affecting dogs' appearance is controlled by one of around 50 gene variations.
Bottom line: We will not only have clone dogs in the future, but also GMO dogs. Only time will tell if this will result in healthier, smarter, and more biddable animals.