Date: February 23, 2017
Source: University of Edinburgh
Scientists have produced pigs that may be protected from an infection that costs the swine industry billions each year.
The team have used advanced genetic techniques to produce pigs that are potentially resilient to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS).
Early tests have revealed that cells from the pigs are completely resistant to infection with both major subtypes of the virus that causes the disease.
The animals are otherwise healthy and the change -- introduced using gene-editing technology -- should not affect their ability to fight off other infections, the researchers say.
PRRS causes severe breathing problems in young pigs and breeding failures in pregnant females.
Studies have shown that the PRRS virus targets immune cells called macrophages. A molecule on the surface of these cells called CD163 plays a key role in enabling the PRRS virus to establish an infection.
The research team at the University of Edinburgh's Roslin Institute, in collaboration with Genus, used a gene-editing tool called CRISPR/Cas9 to cut out a small section of the CD163 gene in the pigs' DNA code.