Stunning discovery could change bacon forever

Using the CRISPR gene editing technique, scientists have found a way to create a leaner pig that is both healthier and cheaper for farmers to keep.

Are you in the mood for some CRISPy bacon, but without all that fat? Chinese scientists have found a way to create a dozen low-fat pigs with a gene-editing technology known as CRISPR, and it could completely change the way we raise livestock in the future.

The researchers were able to alter the genes of the piglets with CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing technology, allowing animals to regulate their body temperatures by burning up fat, a finding that could help farmers save huge amounts of money in producing pork in the future. Farmers currently ahve to spend a lot of cash on heating and extra feed to keep pigs warm in the cold weather, but CRISPR could help animals stay warm and also result in a leaner pig.

Of course, the big question is whether consumers will buy into this method or if they will be wary about eating genetically modified meat. It’s also unknown how a lower fat pig would taste in comparison to a normal pig, although the meat would certainly be leaner.

“Uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) is responsible for brown adipose tissue-mediated thermogenesis and plays a critical role in protecting against cold and regulating energy homeostasis,” reads the abstract from the paper, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Modern pigs lack functional UCP1, which makes them susceptible to cold and prone to fat deposition and results in neonatal mortality and decreased production efficiency. In the current study, a CRISPR/Cas9-mediated homologous recombination-independent approach was established, and mouse adiponectin-UCP1 was efficiently inserted into the porcine endogenous UCP1 locus. The resultant UCP1 KI pigs showed an improved ability to maintain body temperature, decreased fat deposition, and increased carcass lean percentage. UCP1 KI pigs are a potentially valuable resource for the pig industry that can improve pig welfare and reduce economic losses.”

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