Beagles cloned for the first time to save them from genetic diseases caused by inbreeding

Genetically modified beagles have been cloned from skin cells for the first time in a breakthrough that could lead to healthier purebred dogs.

The genomes of the tiny puppies have been modified to eliminate the DJ-1 gene which is linked to cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and stroke.

Many purebred dogs are prone to inherited genetic diseases such as heart, skin, bone and eye problems due to a lack of genetic diversity, but the new technique could eliminate disorders before birth.

Although the DJ-1 gene was just a test deletion to see if the process works – and to examine the role of the gene – the team say they have already corrected a genetic disease in a dog and will publish their research soon.

“The ultimate goal is to cure dogs”

Okjae Koo, of South Korean biotech company ToolGen, which carried out the cloning process with Chungnam National University, told the Telegraph: “This is the first step in our research to establish this editing method. of the genome in dogs.

“The ultimate goal of our research is to cure dogs, using this technology, of pathogenic mutations induced by inbreeding.

“We intend to use this technology to retrieve disease-causing mutations from various dogs and we are developing gene therapy products to cure the animals.”

Dog cloning has become popular for breeders in recent years, with many owners choosing to create a “genetic twin” from a dead or dying animal.

Unlike offspring, cloned animals tend to exhibit the same levels of intelligence, temperament, and appearance as their twin, but are also susceptible to the same health issues.

Disease could be suppressed

The new technique could eliminate the disease that caused the death of the animal before the cloning process as well as other unhealthy traits.

The process of cloning a dog using a skin cell is known as somatic cell nuclear transfer. Scientists remove the nucleus from an egg cell and replace it with the nucleus of another body cell, in this case a beagle skin cell.

Before the skin cell is placed inside the egg, its DNA is modified using a technique known as Crispr, which acts like molecular scissors to cut off parts of the genome that are harmful or undesirable.

Scientists then use artificial insemination to place the egg clone into a surrogate mother. It’s a similar process to the creation of Dolly the Sheep in 1996, although no genetic alterations took place before the cells were placed inside the egg.

The new research has been published in the journal BMC Biotechnology.