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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Chinese scientists managed to create colorful sheep

Consumers may get more choice of natural colors for wool products, because Chinese scientists can change the color of the sheep fleece by editing the animal genes. Scientists from Urumqi, Xinjiang, managed to raise five lambs in a variety of colors by using a technique known as CRISPR-Cas9.

In Xinjiang Academy of Zootechnical Science, there are five sheep that attract attention. Two of them had color shades of black and white, the other two are black with white spots, while one sheep was brown and white like a cappuccino.
5 colorful sheep were raised at Xinjiang Academy of Zootechnical Science. (Picture from: http://adf.ly/1axGj8)
"The sheep are born in March, it has become our beloved pets," said lead researcher, Liu Mingjun. And according to Liu, this is the first time scientists alter the fleece color of large animals through the CRISPR-Cas9 techniques. Previously, the experiment performed limited on mice only. 

As quoted from Xinhua on Tuesday, June 7, 2016, Liu team chose ASIP, which is a key gene to affect the color of fleece, which is used to edit the colors as their wish.

CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats, was chosen as the latest breakthrough in 2015 by one of the US science journal. The findings were assessed as molecular scissors that can selectively discard unwanted parts of the genome and replace it with new DNA. Meanwhile Cas9 are certain types of proteins related to CRISPR where patterns can be altered by genetic modification of the genome.

By using CRISPR-Cas9 techniques, consumers can buy wool products with more variety of color choices without having to add artificial coloring. Not only that, farmers can also order different colors according to their needs or preferences. 

"Compared with the traditional approach of gene mutations, in which researchers require decades to develop new seeds, by editing of the genes are much more effective," said Liu.

In the past year, his team has designed 38 sheep that outperformed ordinary ones in muscle and wool growth. Those animals will be studied more about the genetic stability during reproduction in the autumn of this year.. *** [EKA | FROM VARIOUS SOURCES | XINHUA]
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