Scientists have injected alligator DNA into catfish
(ORDO NEWS) — A team of scientists has introduced the alligator gene into the catfish genomes.
The alligator gene, called cathelicidin, is an antimicrobial gene that plays a role in an animal’s innate immune response, providing protection against various pathogens, including bacteria and viruses.
Aquaculture not only contributes to climate change, but also suffers from its consequences. Catfish account for more than 50 percent of US farmed fish demand.
However, nearly 45 percent of the general population do not survive to the underyearling stage, threatening the environment and the sustainability of the industry.
Catfish are not only highly susceptible to bacterial infections and abiotic stresses, but have also developed resistance to antibiotics.
Scientists are trying to give these freshwater fish an edge over the odds by introducing a disease-fighting gene from alligators.
The CRISPR system has revolutionized gene editing by making gene editing more accurate, efficient and affordable.
A team led by Rex Dunham and Baofeng Su of Auburn University used one of the Cas9 enzymes produced by the CRISPR system to integrate the alligator cathelicidin gene into catfish DNA.
The survival rate of transgenic fish with cathelicidin is 100-400 percent higher than that of their local counterparts.
The sterility of these hybrids helps to eliminate their impact on ecosystems and “prevent the emergence of transgenic or domestic genotypes in the natural environment,” the team said.
Vitality and ethical issues
By ensuring that these genetically engineered fish do not reduce the problems of breeding and out-competing their wild counterparts, it is hard to discount the farmers’ lack of use of lab-produced, sterile fish.
Using CRISPR also calls into question the viability of the method, as it may be “too difficult to produce enough of these fish to produce a viable, genetically healthy line,” says aquaculture genetics expert Greg Lutz of Louisiana State University.
There is also uncertainty regarding the approval of these transgenic fish for human consumption due to the ethical issues associated with genetic modification and the possibility of unintended consequences when using CRISPR.
Finally, while the researchers claim they “would eat it in the blink of an eye,” public acceptance of the hybrid alligator fish is an inevitable issue.
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