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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

As gene editing tools become more powerful scientists are starting to push the boundaries by modifying the genes of more complex animals.

 

For the first time reptiles, which are comparatively complex organisms, have been gene-edited with CRISPR technology after scientists at University of Georgia in the US bred four brown Anole Lizards to be albino pink instead of their typical brown, according to New Atlas. And the findings show that CRISPR gene-editing tech is more resilient and robust than scientists previously thought.

 

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So far geneticists have shied away from gene-editing lizards, as well as more complex organisms, because their eggs are particularly fragile – the process of introducing new genes into them is likely to kill them instead. Georgia’s solution though – rather than gene-editing a fertilised egg as a CRISPR scientist might with a mammal or other animal, the scientists injected unfertilised eggs and waited for nature to run its eventual course.

 

 

After 146 injections into 21 female lizards, the scientists ended up with four mutant albinos. But the albino lizards had CRISPR-induced mutations not only in the genes they got from their mothers, but also those from their fathers, meaning the CRISPR proteins that caused the gene edits stuck around long enough to also interact with the fathers’ sperm.

The discovery that CRISPR proteins are more resilient and long-lasting than previously thought could lead to new human treatments, such as using the technology to cure blindness, and even as a cancer vaccine.

 

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“That was a surprise,” said lead researcher Douglas Menke. “It enabled us to see the functional requirements of the gene without having to breed mutated animals to produce offspring who inherit the mutated gene from both parents. It’s a big time-saver.”

And it’s just another “positive” step in humanity’s race to gene edit animals and plants for a wide variety of reasons – from using them to create living sensor networks, through to creating plants that generate electricity, and many more weird applications besides.

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the 311 Institute, a global futures and deep futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future.” Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, CNBC, Discovery, RT, and Viacom, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, GEMS, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, and many more.

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