'Flying horse' to be born in Argentina by 2019

Armed with genetically altered embryos, scientists all set to produce cloned 'Dolly' of horse

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A Palestinian man rides his horse on a beach in Gaza City February 17, 2017. Reuters

Flying horse is limited to fairy tales or epics but soon a super jumper horse will be born with tweaks in its DNA being undertaken by an Argentine biotech firm, which has already achieved a breakthrough in cloning polo ponies.

These genetically engineered super horses will be faster, stronger and high and far jumpers as scientists were able to use a powerful DNA editing technique called 'Crispr' to redesign the genomes of cloned horses.

Crispr, the short form of 'clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats', is a technique where a hybrid of protein and ribonucleic acid (RNA) works as an efficient hunt-and-cut system. Pioneered by molecular biologists Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier, the technique could work well in animals, including humans, to carry out genome editing.

The horse genome's 32 pairs of chromosomes, written in 2.7  billion base pairs of DNA, were sequenced and published in 2009 and now the team of scientists from Khairon Biotech, a specialist equine cloning facility in Buenos Aires, have successfully worked on boosting the myostatin gene sequence which is crucial to muscle development, endurance and galloping speed of the best breed of horse. Armed with healthy embryos already, they are planning to implant one into a surrogate mother within two years.

The new breed of designed horses should be able to run faster, for longer, and jump higher with more ease than other horses, said biotech engineers. Since current rules of Olympic Games allow the genetically enhanced animals to compete, scientists are focusing on producing the best horse breed that can virtually fly on a race course.

In the past, breeding best animals took several generations but now the genetically altered technique Crispr should cut it short. Sammartino, founder of the Kheiron Biotech laboratory, told The Telegraph: "Our next big challenge is not only to export our technology, but fundamentally develop these scientific advances in other animals for multiple purposes."



While Professor Bruce Whitelaw, of the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, where Dolly the cloned sheep was first created, was upbeat about the new technique, others are apprehensive at the ecological challenge the new breed of animals may pose.

"Crispr is perhaps the most exciting tool that has ever hit biology, and it is a fantastic tool for us to pull apart the function of genes and how the animal or plant functions," he said and vouched for exploring what this technology can do.

However, a doctoral student, Gus McFarlane of the same institute, said, "One of the biggest risks that we're worried about is it if it were to de be deployed, we target an animal and it spreads to a non-targeted individual."