Genetic modification: Next advancement in animal breeding techniques?
Scientific endeavors directly impact the scientific community, but in many ways scientific discoveries influence how society at large functions. This is accomplished either through increased safety of products, advanced technology to enhance our lives, or changes to governmental regulations to increase personal safety. Sometimes society also directly impacts how science is perceived, and whether certain scientific paths are pursued. Here, we will discuss how certain scientific discoveries impact society by influencing governmental regulations, or how society’s view of science effects future scientific work.
Humans have been modifying and selecting traits of plants and animals to suit specific human needs for thousands of years, and the ability to make precise adjustments in both plant and animal performance may have just taken a significant step forward, if that step is acceptable to the consumer. Recently, researchers in China reported the successful production of cows that are partially resistant to infection by Mycobacterium bovis, the bacterium that causes tuberculosis, a disease that can be transferred from cattle (and contaminated milk) to humans. The resistance was provided using a new gene altering technique known as CRISPR/Cas9n modification (1). CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) technology was developed by utilizing bacteria’s ability to defend against invading viruses. A bacterium that was infected by a virus is naturally able to insert remnants of the viral genetic code into its own genetic code, thereby providing a “genetic memory” that helps the bacteria detect and defend against later attacks from the same virus. This bacterial defense mechanism has been harnessed by researchers to be able to target specific sequences i ...