In China, researchers are using CRISPR/Cas9 to editing the genes of beagles to create dogs that have more muscle mass. The altered gene, Myostatin, gives bully whippets and Belgian Blue cattle their bulky muscle without any known cause of health problems. Liangxue Lai of the South China Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Guangzhou, China injected the gene editor into 35 beagles’ embryos. 27 puppies were born of which only 2, a male Hercules and a female Tiangou, had the edited genes. The female has both copies of the myostatin gene mutated in all of her cells developed bigger thigh muscles by at 4 months but Hercules didn’t have the double mutation in all of his cells and didn’t develop as much by 4 months. He did pack on more muscle as they matured. Even thou only a low number of the puppies were born with the mutations Lai believe the editor is not very efficient in dogs but the process just needs to be optimized. Next Lai and colleagues hopes to make mutations that mimic genetic changes like Parkinson’s disease and hearing loss in human. They also don’t plan on making designer pets for sale using this technique; it’s for biomedical research only since beagles are very close to human in terms of metabolic, physiological and anatomical characteristics.
I think it’s amazing that China and the US use dogs for research needs; I have heard about rats and other animals but not beagles. Instead of making designer pets my first concern is that this process will eventually be used to give humans bigger and more efficient muscles. I can imagine the next generations of athletes trying to be larger by having their genes edited with bull genes. The research need is perfect but we do not need to make altered humans to be us stronger or to gain animalistic abilities.