Category Archives: American Health

Big Tongues And Extra Vertebrae: The Unintended Consequences Of Animal Gene Editing.

Genetic Engineering And Gene Manipulation Concept

By Preetika Rana and Lucy Craymer
Wall St Journal, updates Dec 14, 2018

* Unintended consequences have included enlarged rabbit tongues and extra pig vertebrae, as bioethicists warn of hubris

The purported birth last month of the world’s first gene-edited human babies, claimed by a Chinese scientist, spurred a wave of global outrage. Scientists denounced the (as yet unconfirmed) experiment as irresponsible, and the development reinforced fears that the redesigning of DNA is moving ahead too fast and without necessary oversight.

The proliferation of similar experiments on farm animals in recent years supports those concerns. Though rapid strides have been made to map genomes—the full set of genes for humans, animals, insects and plants—scientists have only begun to understand what the tens of thousands of individual genes do. Moreover, they are far from unraveling how those genes interact with each other.

Scientists around the world are editing the genes of livestock to create meatier pigs, cashmere goats with longer hair and cold-weather cows that can thrive in the tropics. The goals are to improve agricultural productivity, produce hardier beasts and reduce practices that are costly or considered inhumane. But amid some successes, disturbing outcomes are surfacing.

When Chinese researchers deleted a gene that limits muscle growth in mammals so that rabbits would grow leaner, their creations exhibited an unusual characteristic: enlarged tongues. Similar experiments on Chinese pigs led some to develop an additional vertebrae. Gene-edited calves died prematurely in Brazil and New Zealand.

The stumbles show the risks of racing ahead with such experiments, even as many governments work to clear regulatory pathways to bring meat, eggs and dairy from gene-edited animals to store shelves. Bioethicists and many geneticists have raised doubts about applying the gene-editing technology to animals and especially humans, given the continued uncertainties in both the science and the lab and field results.

“Humans have a very long history of messing around in nature with all kinds of unintended consequences,” said Lisa Moses, an animal bioethicist at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics. “It’s really hubris of us to assume that we know what we’re doing and that we can predict what kinds of bad things can happen.”

The belief has spread that scientists know how gene editing works “all the time, under all conditions,” says Odd-Gunnar Wikmark, a researcher at the Norway-based foundation GenOk, which studies the consequences of genetic engineering. “We of course do not.”

Critics say that editing animal DNA could introduce unwanted mutations that pose a threat to human health when consumed, and they fear that mutated genes may spread unchecked as animals breed. Proponents say they are engineering mutations just as traditional crossbreeding does, only faster. Though no gene-edited animal products have reached markets yet, the potential benefits to farming have led many big agricultural nations to join the race.

Crispr-Cas9, the tool introduced in 2012 that was used to engineer the human babies, is cheaper than older techniques and enables scientists to add, delete and rearrange DNA with greater precision. But an article published in the journal Nature Biotechnology in July suggests that Crispr might cause greater damage than previously understood—including changes in genes other than those intended. When DNA is cut, “a lot of odd things can happen,” study leader Allan Bradleysaid in July.

Take the gene called MSTN. Since 2012, Kui Li, a scientist with the state-run Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, has reverse-engineered cells from adult Chinese pigs to their embryonic stage, which is a common process when cloning animals. Then, using an older editing tool, he deleted MSTN, which limits how large muscles grow in mammals, including in humans. The edited cells are infused into eggs, chemically fertilized in a lab and implanted into the womb of a surrogate. At a farm 70 miles southeast of Beijing, dozens of pigs rest in metallic cages and glass enclosures; their meat is up to 12% leaner if both copies of their MSTN gene are deleted.

But there was another effect on the pigs: One in five offspring who inherited the edited genes had an extra spinal bone known as thoracic vertebrae, Dr. Li found. He doesn’t know why, though he postulates that the MSTN gene somehow contributes to skeletal formation. Lab tests show that his pigs are safe to eat, said Dr. Li: Despite a slight fading in color after cooking, he recorded no nutritional differences. He’s begun using Crispr to make more commercial breeds like the U.K.’s Large White leaner or resistant to PRRS, a deadly viral infection.

When state-sponsored scientists at Nanjing Agricultural University used Crispr to edit MSTN out of rabbits to make them meatier, 14 of the 34 engineered offspring were inexplicably born with enlarged tongues, leading the scientists to warn of abnormalities from gene editing in a 2016 research paper on their project. “Safety issues need to be addressed in future studies before the technology can be utilized” in agriculture, the authors wrote.

“Even the genes that we think we know very well, there’s a lot to learn,” said Se-Jin Lee, one of the scientists who discovered MSTN at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1997.

Chinese scientists at a different research facility have had to use caesarean sections to birth lambs whose MSTN genes were deleted with Crispr, because some grew too large to be birthed naturally. They have had success modifying goats’ cashmere to grow about 20% longer by preventing the gene FGF5 from regulating the growth.

Generally, the larger the animals, the greater the complications. New Zealand’s AgResearch Ltd. applied Crispr on cattle to reduce their heat stress, deleting a single amino acid on a gene that contributes to coat color (including hair and skin color in humans), in an effort to lighten the cows’ black-and-white coats to better reflect sunlight. Both calves died (one was sick and was euthanized). In a separate experiment using an older tool to enable cold-weather Angus cattle to thrive in the Brazilian tropics, one of two calves died prematurely.

Scientists in both experiments blame cloning, which created the calves but still isn’t foolproof, they say, after two decades in use. Neither is their understanding of genes. “But if we don’t try, we will never learn,” said Goetz Laible, who led AgResearch’s experiment.

Globally, at least a dozen gene-edited livestock projects are aiming to reach consumer markets. Some may face less resistance from consumers and ethicists because they could eliminate reviled practices: Cattle could be engineered without horns, for instance, obviating the need to dehorn them.

Wool from a gene-edited animal might also be more readily accepted because it is only worn, not eaten. Researchers in China’s eastern Xinjiang region used Crispr to alter the ASIP gene, believed to influence coat color in Merino sheep, with the aim of creating new breeds with darker coats—all black, gray or brown — so that off-white wool wouldn’t need to be dyed.

The results confirmed previous research suggesting that genes involved in coat color also play a role in reproduction: Only a fourth as many ewes implanted with the disrupted genes carried to term, as compared to normal circumstances. Meanwhile, for the wool itself, the results were mixed: One sheep was white, two were mostly black, and the other three had spotted fleeces akin to a panda.

The outcome also underlined how far there is to go in understanding the forces at work among the genes of humans and animals. “I think it would be an understatement to say we should be more cautious,” said Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and the founder of Utah-based Kimmela Center for Animal Advocacy. “I think we’ve already gone over the line with animals, and now humans.”

—Zhou Wei contributed to this article

Emergence of Lab-Grown Meat A New Threat To America´s Food Supply By Environment Psycho´s.

 

 

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GMO Pusher Bill Gates Teams Up With Richard Branson, Hopes to End the Meat Industry As We Know It With Lab-Grown Beef.

https://althealthworks.com

Meat grown in labs has been a hot topic of conversation for the last seven years, with some media outlets hailing it as the future of food and a “cleaner” way to do meat.

But when the real thing hits supermarket shelves, will customers be kept in the dark about how it’s really made, and perhaps more importantly, will anybody actually want to eat it?

Ready or not, lab-grown meat from stem cells is on its way, and it’s being propped up by one of the most controversial names in the world of genetically modified food (GMOs) — Microsoft founder and long-time Monsanto supporter Bill Gates, along with another wealthy investor, Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group.

Just recently, the two famous figures placed a big-time bet on the self-proclaimed “clean” lab-grown meat company Memphis Meats, to the tune of $17 million.

But will customers flock to this new so-called “murder free” meat, or are Gates and Branson making a mistake in betting on a an under-tested technology with big claims and unknown effects on human health?

Startup Companies to Grow Meat in the Lab

Memphis Meats and Hampton Creek (recently accused of labeling lies with its other products aimed at reducing animal agriculture) are the most commonly-heard of, but not the only companies who are working on creating lab-grown meat.

MosaMeat of the Netherlands, founded by Professor Mark Post, first started with a product with a $325,000 price tag.

Today that number has been trimmed to a far more manageable $11.36 per package. The founder hopes to decrease the price even more if it succeeds and goes commercial.

The company also has serious financial weight behind it in Sergey Brin of Alphabet (the parent company of Google), and hopes to develop affordable mass-produced lab-grown meat or “cultured meat” within the next 10-20 years (a ways off from its competitors).

Another company is SuperMeat in Israel. Also founded by a professor, its goal is to create lab-grown chicken meat. The company raised $229,269 on Indiegogo to begin its efforts.

These companies are just the tip of the iceberg for what industry insiders hope becomes the new standard for meat eaters everywhere.

Further Examining Lab-Grown Meat Promises

All of the lab-grown meat companies have a similar mission, as evidenced by these slogans and promises:

“A method that doesn’t require raising and slaughtering animals.” – Memphis Meats

“Let’s change the way meat gets to the plate.” – Memphis Meats

“Eating meat without killing animals.” – SuperMeat

“Real meat without harming animals.” – SuperMeat

Besides their pledge to save animals, lab-grown meat companies make big claims when it comes to helping the environment.

Memphis Meats says they expect the following results from their products:

An up to 90% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional meat

The same reduction of land and water use

Better meat for human health

MosaMeat says they will help solve the food crisis and combat climate change, but doesn’t say much about animal welfare. Their main technique requires one sample of muscle cells to be taken from live animals for every 20,000 tons of lab-grown meat, saying the biopsy is harmless and noting that the animal survives the procedure.

SuperMeat promises to be humane, eco-friendly, to fight world hunger, and to create meat that is supposedly healthier and cheaper.

How the meat is actually grown, however, is another story entirely (and one these companies don’t exactly seem eager to reveal to future customers).

While a humane, environmentally friendly and even “healthy” burger sounds like a dream come true for meat lovers, there are plenty of misconceptions here that the public is being kept in the dark about.

The first issue with lab-grown meat is how the meat cells are being harvested.

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How Lab Meat is Made

Slate recently reported that most lab-grown beef comes from a surprising, and highly unappetizing source — fetal bovine serum (also known as FBS).

Fetal bovine serum is a byproduct made from cow’s fetus blood.

What happens is as follows: if a cow in a slaughterhouse is pregnant, when she is slaughtered, the fetus is removed and brought into a blood collection facility. While still alive, the fetus is drained of its blood until it dies by a process of sticking a needle in its heart. It takes about five minutes, and this is what produces FBS, and ultimately, these so-called healthier burgers.

Even though cows and bulls are kept separately, the percentage of dairy cows who are pregnant is between 17 and 31 percent. As a result the number of fetuses being slaughtered is in the millions.

The FBS from these slaughtered fetuses can then be used in the lab, grown in a petri dish into a meat-like substance by feeding the cells nutrients for about a month. Fetal bovine serum is the easiest to grow, because cells when separated from the body are suicidal. The FBS contains growth factors that prevent them from killing themselves.

This process is not the only way to make lab-grown meat, but it is the fastest way. It can be used on other types of meat cells as well, and may be added to a petri dish with chicken cells to create a similar product.

At the end of the day, this reliance on FBS means some animals are still being killed for lab-created meat; cultured meat is definitely not vegetarian as some may hope.

The moral question of killing animals still remains: is slaughtering fetuses to make this highly unnatural product really any better than killing adult farm animals?

The controversial FBS is also used in creating vaccines for people, and it also comes with about a 1 in 40 billion chance of contracting mad cow disease. This low risk is much higher in cultured meat, which is why the Food and Drug Administration discouraged its use for the past 25 years (before wealthy investors like Gates and Branson decided to bring it to the forefront of the food industry, that is).

Is Lab Grown Meat Really A Better Choice?

What will the cultured meat companies do, and can Gates and Branson steer clear of the controversy that is sure to arise when people find out how these meats are actually made (much like genetically modified organisms from Monsanto)?

Each company ends up hiding its true plans because their products have to be licensed, and there are plenty of proprietary issues that come into play. It seems that they are trying to avoid FBS, but there are no conclusions to be drawn yet.

Hampton Creek says they will try to create meat using plant-based products to make the cells grow using bioreactors or giant tanks, using a process that will look similar to beer brewing.

Memphis Meats said they have developed the first product without FBS, and are now working on applying it to all of their products.

Neither company will say what they actually use because of the fear that the idea will be stolen. As a result, transparency goes out the window (sound familiar?), although we do know that there’s a chance the process may end up using GMO yeast, at least according to a representative from the company Finless Fish as quoted by Gizmodo.

The environmental claims made by lab grown meat companies may not be what they seem, either. Hampton Creek for example says its lab-meat will be up to ten times more environment efficient than conventional meat, but the evidence is lacking.

A 2011 study concluded that this type of meat product might produce less greenhouse gas, yet that it uses the same amount of energy as the pork industry. Another 2015 study estimated that it will require the same amount of energy as the conventional meat industry.

Despite the controversies, It seems that many animal rights groups are supporting lab-grown meat.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) offered a one-million dollar prize to the first company who can produce a commercially successful cultured meat. However, the deadline of the contest has passed as commercial lab-grown meat is still in the works.

It seems that company gave up on inspiring everyone to cut out animal products and is willing to compromise.

“People are surprised to learn that PETA is interested in lab-grown meat, but we have overcome our own revulsion at flesh-eating to champion a breakthrough that will mean a far kinder world for animals,” PETA statement said.

Mercy for Animals also supports “meat that is produced through cellular agriculture instead of slaughter.”

It might not be much better for the environment after all.

Meanwhile, the consumers are being fed an eerily-hypnotizing ads to hype up our expectations.

Watch a TV report about cultured meat that includes laboratory footage: