Animal Biotechnology in the News

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The Washington Post - 08.19.2014

Genetically Engineered Pig Hearts Survived More Than a Year in Baboon Hosts

By breeding piglets with a few choice human genes, scientists were able to create sort-of-pig hearts that seem to be compatible with primate hosts. The organ wasn't used as a heart, but was instead grafted into the abdomen of an otherwise healthy baboon. After over a year, the best of the hearts are still living, viable organs. Next stop, the chest cavity!

Researchers at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health will publish their results in the September issue of The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, though their findings were discussed several months ago at a conference. According to the study, the researchers experimented with different degrees of genetic modification in the pigs. They prevented all of the piglets from producing certain enzymes known to cause organ rejection in baboons (and, by extension, humans) but were given different gene alterations to keep blood from clotting, which is another common issue.    

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Meatingplace.com - 07.28.2014

Animal Ag Needs Safe Technologies to Feed Growing Population

The key word is SAFE.  Technology must be safe for the animals, for us humans and for our environment or I will not endorse it.  Many anti-animal agriculture folks talk a lot abotu how bad the "factory farms" and their use of the technology to gain weight or milk production are for the animals' health and ours.  But I wonder if they really think about all the technology that has gone into making modern day animal husbandry what it is?

I recently spent 16 hours driving round-trip to participate in my Mother-in-Law’s 99th birthday. And much of that time was spent marveling at what she had seen over her life time.  And much of that time was spent marveling at what she had seen over her life time.I asked her what was the greatest technological advance she had seen in 99 years (she rents out the farm land and still follows production carefully).  I had not thought of this when I blog about certain animal pharmaceuticals, but her answer was the Rural Electrification Act. FDR signed this into law in 1935 with Senator Norris from Nebraska standing at his side.  

Now surely the anti-animal ag group cannot complain about this technology.   We have better housing and climate control, better and safer transporation for animals, better feeding regimens and selective breeding to increase positive traits and eliminate unhealthy traits.  We have vaccines to prevent diease, probiotics and prebiotics along with Phages that not only help animals remain disease free, but also help reduce pathogens that can cause foodborne illnesses.  The animal agriculture industry uses antibiotics approved by the FDA to not only treat disease, but also to control and prevent disease, keeping their animals healthy and productive.  We do the same in human medicine. We use antibiotics to prevent or control disease, but the anti-animal ag voices do not mention that in their rhetoric.

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Business Insider - 07.25.2014

This Salmon Will Likely Be The First Genetically Modified Animal You Eat

If you live in the U.S., chances are you've consumed genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, in the form of corn or soybeans. Now, the first genetically modified animal may soon be swimming its way to your dinner plate.  A genetically modified salmon, called AquAdvantage, is awaiting FDA approval, and, when it does, the fish should be available for consumption in about two years, according to the company.

Americans consume 300,000 tons of salmon yearly, according to Bloomberg Businessweek's Brendan Borrell. And with two-thirds of that coming from farmed Atlantic salmon — the wild version of which is endangered — the market seems ripe for an upgrade of the food.  But not all are pleased with its arrival.

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The Scientist

Designer Livestock 

In the mid-1990s, microbiologist Cecil Forsberg of the University of Guelph in Ontario and his colleagues thought they’d achieved a pig production breakthrough: they had genetically engineered swine that could digest the phosphorous compounds in their feed. Phytase, an enzyme that breaks down phosphorus-containing phytate in plants, is produced by the gut bacteria of cows and other ruminants, but it is not made by pigs. Forsberg’s team borrowed a phytase gene from E. coli and a fragment of mouse DNA that mediated the enzyme’s production in the salivary glands, injected the genetic construct into pig zygotes, then inserted those zygotes into fertile sows. “In the end, we had approximately 30 different lines of pigs,” Forsberg recalls. The researchers screened the animals for levels of phytase production in the salivary glands, narrowing the field to the four most promising. “Then we came down to one line”—the Cassie line, named for its founding animal—“which performed satisfactorily and contained three copies of the transgene,” he says.

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Pulmonary Hypertension News - 06.02.2014

Lung Biotechnology's Pig Lungs for Human Transplant Project Awaits R&D Facility Construction

Genomics development and commercialization specialist firm Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) of La Jolla, CA, and Silver Spring, Maryland-based Lung Biotechnology Inc., a subsidiary of United Therapeutics Corporation, have entered into a multi-year research and development agreement to develop humanized pig organs using synthetic genomic advances. The collaboration will initially focus on developing organs for human patients in need of organ transplants, such as engineered lungs and lung tissues for patients with pulmonary arterial hypertension or other lung diseases.

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Popular Science - 06.17.2014

How Soon Might We Have Genetically Modified Meat?

There are no genetically engineered animals sold for human consumption right now.  The only candidate that's anywhere close, AquaBounty's fast-growing GM Salmon, seems to have stalled in its approval process, in spite of positive scientific reviews finding AqauBounty Fish safe to eat and safe for the environment.  As you might guess, the lack of genetically modified meat on the market isn't because a lack of technology.  It's because of politics-GM foods are deeply unpopular, and GM food animals especially so.  

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New Scientist - 04.23.2014

Brazil Approves Use of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes 

On 10 April, Brazil became the first country to approve the commercial use of genetically modified insects when it gave the green light to GM mosquitoes designed to control the spread of dengue fever.

Dengue fever affects more than 50 million people worldwide every year and can be deadly. Now biotech firm Oxitec of Oxford, UK, has genetically engineered males of the species Aedes aegypti so that their offspring die before reaching maturity

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Forbes - 03.09.2014

With a Forked Tongue: How the Obama White House Stymies Innovation in Food Production 

Approval of the AquAdvantage salmon has been delayed because of the antagonism of the Obama White House, which hijacked the review two years ago.  The fish would have been in our markets and on our plates long ago, had Hamburg and her agency been permitted to do their jobs.  

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The New Yorker - 08.13.2013

The Psychology of Distrusting G.M.O.S

Psychologists have long observed that there is a continuum in what we perceive as natural or unnatural.  As the psychologist Robert Sternberg wrote in 1982, the natural is what we find more familiar, while what we consider unnatural tends to be more novel.  And anything that involves human manipulation is considered highly unnatural - like say G.M.O.s, even though genertically modified food already lines the shelves at the grocery store.

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NPR (Radio Link) - 03.11.2013 

'Frankenstein's Cat': Bioengineering The Animals of the Future

In her new book, Frankenstein's Cat: Cuddling up to Biotech's Brave New Beasts, science journalist Emily Anthes talks about how the landscape of bioengineering has expanded since Dolly the Sheep was cloned in 1996.

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The New York Times - 03.09.2014

Don't Be Afraid of  Genetic Modification 

If patience is a virtue, then AquaBounty, a Massachusettes biotech company, might be the most virtuous entity on the planet.  In 1993, the company approached the Food and Drug Administration about selling a genetically modified salmon that grew faster than a normal fish.  In 1995, AquaBounty formally applied for approval.  Last month, more than 17 years later, the public comment period, one of the last steps in the approval process, was finally supposed to conclude.  

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