As cells divide and multiply, it is relatively common for small changes in DNA sequence to occur naturally as a result of errors in the DNA copying process. The accumulation and positive selection for these changes has played a key part in driving evolution and in generating much of the genetic variation that we currently observe across a wide range of characteristics both within and between species.
Over the past decade substantial advancements have been made in the development of molecular tools that can be used to mimic this process and to introduce changes in precise locations in the genome, an approach that is often referred to as gene or genome editing. A number of different genome editing approaches are now available. They are generally based around a common approach of using a nuclease enzyme (e.g. ZFN, TALENS or CRISPR-Cas9) to cut the genome at a precise predetermined location, and then to allow the DNA to repair using the cells own repair mechanisms, or to also influence how the repair is done by providing a repair template. By using the tools currently edits can be introduced in nearly any part of the genome.
Genome editing can be a very powerful tool by allowing changes to be introduced that have a positive effect on characteristics of interest, such as resistance to a specific disease, or rate of growth in a particular tissue. However, its power is dependent on the ability to introduce changes into parts of the genome that are known to have a functional effect on the characteristic of interest. Over the last decade substantial advancements have also been made in understanding the structure and function of genomes for many animal species. Highly annotated, high quality reference genomes are now available for most livestock species. Their availability and use will play a key role in helping to capture the value that the use of genome editing can offer in livestock species.
For more than 20 years, scientist at the Roslin Institute have been at forefront of the advancements that have achieved for many livestock species, both in the development and annotation of reference sequences (see the History of Innovation section), and in the application of cutting edge genomic tools to deliver functional changes, such as Pig 26, born in 2013, which was genome edited to confer resistance to African Swine Fever. Through this wealth of knowledge and experience, the team is well placed to develop livestock that are edited for characteristics of interest.
The development and validation of edited animal models is available as a commercial service through Roslin Technologies. If you have an interest in developing a specific model, please contact us to discuss your requirements further.