Scientists at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health in China have genetically modified two beagles to have hulk muscles. 

The dogs, who were part of an experiment involving 65 puppy embryos, were the only two successfully bred to lack the ability to produce myostatin, a protein that regulates muscle growth. The male, named Hercules, didn't quite fit the bill—his body still makes some myostatin, though not much. The female, Tiangou, produces none at all, so she will likely be the candidate for further breeding. Beagles are one of the most common animals used in biomedical research.

The special dog DNA was created using a gene-editing technique called CRISPR. CRISPR has boomed in popularity this year, allowing scientists to experiment with making designer everything, from pigs to fruit to (and this is the part freaking everyone out) human embryos.

The end goal of the beagle research is to create a line of dogs whose muscular infrastructure can be manipulated to mimic diseases like muscular dystrophy and Parkinson's Disease. But as soon as the news was out, people were guessing how soon the animals will be on the market as pets. It's not hard to imagine the dogs being up for sale soon, given the influx of "designer" animals like micropigs. And the researchers admit that that is one potential revenue source.

The dogs have "more muscles and are expected to have stronger running ability, which is good for hunting, police (military) applications," Liangxue Lai, who coauthored the study, commented to MIT Technology Review.

Those muscles, however, raised an eye when Nina Jackel saw them. She is the director of campaigns for Last Chance for Animals, a Los Angeles-based animal protection nonprofit which performs investigations of the dog trade.

"My initial thought was, 'Who will be the first to abuse this technology for dog fighting?' " said Jackel, in an e-mail to Tech Times. "The thought of breeding any sort of 'customized' pet is sickening, especially in a world so overpopulated with dogs that 2.4 million are euthanized each year in the United States alone."

But the researchers are adamant that their central goal is to provide better models for medical experimentation.

"The goal of the research is to explore an approach to the generation of new disease dog models for biomedical research," said Lai. "Dogs are very close to humans in terms of metabolic, physiological, and anatomical characteristics." 

Mimicking those characteristics in the disabled, however, has been an ongoing challenge.

The researchers published their findings in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology

ⓒ 2021 TECHTIMES.com All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Tags: