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Until now, researchers had the tools to genetically manipulate only a small selection of animals, and the process was often inefficient and laborious. With the arrival of CRISPR, they can alter the genes of a wide range of organisms with relative precision and ease. In the past two years alone, the prospect of gene-edited monkeys, mammoths, mosquitoes and more have made headlines as scientists attempt to put CRISPR to use for applications as varied as agriculture, drug production and bringing back lost species. CRISPR-modified animals are even being marketed for sale as pets. “It’s allowed us to consider a whole raft of projects we couldn’t before,” says Bruce Whitelaw, an animal biotechnologist at the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, UK.
But regulators are still working out how to deal with such creatures, particularly those intended for food or for release into the wild. Concerns abound about safety and ecological impacts. Even the US director of national intelligence has weighed in, saying that the easy access, low cost and speedy development of genome editing could increase the risk that someone will engineer harmful biological agents.
Eleonore Pauwels, who studies biotechnology regulation at the Wilson Center in Washington DC, says that the burgeoning use of CRISPR in animals offers an opportunity for researchers and policymakers to engage the public in debate. She hopes that such discussions will help in determining which uses of CRISPR will be most helpful to humans, to other species and to science — and will highlight the limits of the technology.
Read full, original post: Welcome to CRISPR’s Gene-Modified Zoo