Thursday, October 13, 2016

How gene editing is changing what a lab animal looks like

Model organisms that we use in labs to study biological aspects usually have very similar characteristics.  Some traits of model organisms are: they have short reproductive cycles, large brood or offspring, small in size, and some other characteristics depending on what exactly it  is that is being studied.  Throughout the early days of biology, model organisms were limited to animals like flies, mice, zebra fish and monkeys. Scientists would interbreed these organisms with relatives like brother and sister in order to decrease genetic variation and have more control over the experiment. However, with new gene editing technology, the requirements of being a model organism for experiments have dramatically changed.
Image displaying common model organisms
With the new CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing system, scientists are able to target specific spots in a genome to be studied. This method can open the door for many other organisms to be studied in labs like squids or octopuses.  These organisms can be used to study motion and neural, which can be used in robotics and prosthetics.  Scientists can further examine camouflage systems in these creatures and determine if it is a genetic trait.  However, this goes against the traditional scientific culture of building upon work that has already been done by others. A whole new culture of scientific exploration of model organisms may be created if grants are given to study these methods.

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