After decades of effort, scientists have finally managed to derive embryonic stem (ES) cells from cows and keep them in their primitive state in a dish. Access to these versatile cells, which can become all kinds of tissues, from skin to muscle to bone, could make it easier to tweak and preserve useful genetic traits of beef and dairy breeds. That in turn could lead to animals that produce more milk or more tender meat, face fewer complications in giving birth, or have greater resistance to diseases. The discovery might also open up new ways to study the cow’s basic development and to model human diseases.
“I thought I would never see this happen in my lifetime,” says Jose Cibelli, a developmental biologist at Michigan State University….
Even without any genetic engineering—a technology that consumers might be reluctant to see applied to their steaks and milkshakes—ES cells could make it easier for cattle breeders to select for superior animals. They could test ES cells from different embryos for the presence of genetic advantages, like genes associated with more milk production. Once they identified a set of traits they like, Cibelli says, they could create unlimited clones from those cells.
Read full, original post: First cow embryonic stem cells could lead to healthier, more productive livestock