Genetically modified pigs may be lean but are healthier

Researchers from China have developed a new breed of pigs which has lower fat, about a quarter less than the normal pigs. The new pig breed could survive in cold weather conditions with lesser care.

China's first cloned pig, stuffed and displayed, is seen in front of a researcher working at the Beijing Genomics institute in Shenzhen July 23, 2010. China's population is projected to grow to 1.44 billion by 2030 from 1.33 billion in 2009, according to the World Bank, and Beijing is hunting for cutting-edge technology to feed its people and provide better quality food. Picture taken July 23, 2010. Reuters

Chinese scientists have developed a new breed of pigs with 24 percent less body fat than normal pigs.

The researchers from Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing used the gene editing technology CRISPR to develop the new breed which was thinner than the normal pigs.

The scientists inserted a mouse version of a gene called Uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) into 12 model pigs during its embryo state and found that they had a quarter of less fats when compared to normal pigs.

According to researchers, the genes, which were newly introduced in the pig embryos, had the ability to maintain body temperatures in most mammals and were lacking in pigs. The newly introduced gene has helped the pigs to regulate their body temperature by burning the fat.

Jianguo Zhao from the varsity said, "They could maintain their body temperature much better, which means that they could survive better in the cold weather."

The study, which was published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, said that reducing the fat could minimise the vulnerability of pigs during the cold in winter. It could reduce the mortality and weight loss in pigs during winter, thus decreasing the farmer's loss. It could also decrease the feeding costs and the money spent for warming the pigs from cold.

The researchers still have doubts whether the genetically modified pigs could be used for consumption. They are also not sure of the public response to the new pig's meat.

(With inputs from Indo Asian News Service)