February 25, 2017

Doggy DNA Editing

Soon, dogs might be able to live forever! Okay, not forever. But with scientific knowledge ever-increasing, you dog might be able to live longer than ever before. How? With genetic modification.

The term "genetic modification" has been throw around before. Maybe you've heard it from Jurassic Park. Thankfully, there are no dinosaurs here. The genetic modification that one breeder (yes, breeder, not scientist!) is talking about wouldn't create "new" dogs, it would just create healthier dogs.

According to David Ishee, a dog breeder from Mississippi, "Dogs have more genetic diseases than any other species on the planet." Unfortunately, this is true. There are many dog breeds out there, and unfortunately, many of these breeds have faced severe inbreeding. With a limited gene pool, genetic defects and disorders are prevalent many breeds. The genetic makeup of breeds like bulldogs, boxers, and dalmations is almost impossible to change - until now. 

Ishee calls it "gene editing". While he doesn't have a biology degree or experience in science labs, he does know a lot about dogs. Using his own kit and DNA he ordered online, Ishee taught himself how to edit genes. 

He explains that it's not impossible, however regulations are tightening on genetic engineering. The FDA isn't sure yet of effects on the environment, ecosystem, or individual genomes. While Ishee might be able to get rid of certain diseases that currently ravage purebreed dogs, the effects of synthetic DNA are relatively unknown. 

There are pros and cons on both sides. Gene editing and genetic modification is still very new. The effects of editing existing genes is still a little fuzzy. Will it end up hurting the animal, or the breed, in the long run? However, other sides argue that this might be our only chance to eradicate big doggy diseases, since the current purebreed gene pools are too limited to try to change. 

Science, and dog breeders, will continually surprise us! What do you think it would be like to own a genetically-modified pup? You might find out someday soon.

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