🤖 Science & Emerging Tech

Of mice and men

Thursday, Sep 1

KP

Kyle Nowak|Peter Nowak

Images: Qiang Wang/Adobe

A team of Chinese scientists successfully created the world’s first mammal with fully reprogrammed genes, a mouse called Xiao Zhu or "Little Bamboo," per a new peer-reviewed study published in Science.

☝️ First things first… Chromosomes are essentially the building blocks of life. They’re long strings of DNA present in the nucleus of every cell where an organism’s entire genome is organized and stored.

  • The genes held within chromosomes contain instructions that tell the organism’s cells to make certain proteins. Those proteins ultimately determine features like height, eye color, hair color, and more.

🐁🧬 Now, back to the study: The Chinese researchers used CRISPR gene-editing technology to take each single chromosome from a mouse, break it down, then reorganize it into a new combination. They did so inside a single, unique reproductive cell that was tailor-made by the team to grow into a living mouse.

👶 Big picture: The invention of CRISPR, which is cheap and easy to deploy, could potentially lead to cures for genetic-based diseases – but it’s also turned the possibility of "designer babies" into a reality.

A Chinese scientist created the first genetically-edited human babies in November 2018, altering their genomes in an attempt to resist possible future infection with HIV. Following international outcry, the scientist was sentenced to three years in prison for "illegal medical practices." He was released earlier this year.

  • The incident prompted calls for a global ban on all related experiments, though some scientists predicted it could help accelerate public adoption of human gene editing.
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