Last week a game-changer was announced that could quite possibly reinvent the pork industry. Dr. Randy Prather, Professor of Animal Science at the University of Missouri and Director of the National Swine Resource and Research Center, has spent over a decade putting the pieces together to finally provide an answer to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus.
The results are in and along with partners at Kansas State University and Genus pic, Dr. Prather bred pigs that do not produce a protein called CD163, which is necessary for the PRRS virus to spread in animals. They first tried to knock out sialoadhesin. Once they had pigs that didn’t produce that molecule in their cell surface, they were sent to K-State to be challenged with the PRRS virus. Unfortunately, they all got sick.
That is when Dr. Prather and his team started working on CD163. “We started using a new technique to edit the genome called a crispr cas9 system. We successfully used that and created some founder animals. We bred those together and had animals that had both alleles edited.” Those animals were also sent to K-State and the result was a pig with no symptoms of PRRS. No fever, no coughing. Even though they were in a pen with other sick pigs.
Now that the molecule that is responsible for PRRS infection has been identified, Dr. Prather said they need to find out if these pigs grow at the same rate. “The next step is to recreate the same genetic edit on high-end animals that are consistent with what the pork industry is seeing right now in a production system to determine if they gain at the same rate and if there are any other adverse effects.”
This genetic editing is simply changing a handful of letters of the genome. The sky’s the limit when it comes to the possibilities of using this same application throughout animal agriculture.
Listen to my complete interview with Dr. Prather as he provides an in-depth look into the science behind PRRS resistant pigs and the future for the swine community. Interview with Dr. Randy Prather, University of Missouri