US scientists develop gene-edited calf resistant to pestivirus

Beef Central, 10/05/2023

AMERICAN Scientists have collaborated to produce the first gene-edited calf with resistance to bovine viral diarrhea virus, otherwise known as pestivirus.

Ginger is a gene-edited calf resistant developed to be resistant to pestivirus. Photo: US Agricultural Research Service

The recent study  waspublished in PNAS Nexus results from a collaboration between the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the University of Kentucky, and industry partners, Acceligen and Recombinetics, Inc.

BVDV is one of the most significant viruses affecting the health and well-being of cattle worldwide, and researchers have been studying it since the 1940s when it was first recognised. This virus does not affect humans but is highly contagious among cattle and can cause severe respiratory and intestinal diseases.

BVDV can affect to pregnant cows by infecting developing calves, causing spontaneous abortions and low birth rates. Some infected calves survive to birth and remain infected for life, shedding massive amounts of virus to other cattle.

However, over the past 20 years, the scientific community discovered the main cellular receptor (CD46) and the area where the virus binds to that receptor, causing infection in cows. Scientists modified the virus binding site in this recent study to block infection.

Aspen Workman, lead author and researcher at ARS’ U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (USMARC) in Clay Center, Nebraska, said: “Our objective was to use gene-editing technology to slightly alter CD46 so it wouldn’t bind the virus yet would retain all its normal bovine functions.”

The scientists first tested this idea in cell culture. After seeing promising outcomes in the laboratory, Acceligen edited cattle skin cells to develop embryos carrying the altered gene. These embryos were transplanted into surrogate cows to test whether this approach might also reduce virus infection in live animals.

It worked, and the first CD46 gene-edited calf, named Ginger, was born healthy on July 19, 2021. The calf was observed for several months and then later challenged with the virus to determine if she could become infected. She was housed for a week with a BVDV-infected dairy calf that was born shedding virus. Ginger’s cells displayed significantly reduced susceptibility to BVDV, which resulted in no observable adverse health effects.

The scientists will continue to closely observe Ginger’s health and ability to produce and raise her own calves.

This proof-of-concept study demonstrates the possibility of reducing the burden of BVDV-associated diseases in cattle by gene editing. The edited calf also represents another potential opportunity to lessen the need for antibiotics in agriculture since BVDV infection also puts calves at risk for secondary bacterial diseases. This promising trait is still in the research phase and no associated beef is entering the U.S. food supply at this time.

Source: US Agricultural Research Service











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  1. Lincoln Job, Marellan Shorthorns Emerald QLD, 12/05/2023

    Whilst the production gains from this type of GM breakthrough is enticing. I believe Gene Editing is a rabbit hole the Australian Beef Industry should absolutely reject. Our competition in the future will come from ‘Frankin Foods’ (Frankenstein style lab grown, ultra fake and ultra processed). Our industries competitive advantage will rely on our genuine natural image and natural product.

  2. mick alexander, 11/05/2023

    Why dont more producers comment on this unnecesary fiddling with the natural genome of livestock – I am ashamed that we have pseudoscientists in agriculture who carry out this ridiculous work pretending they know what they are doing and purporting to be able to stop calves from contracting disease with no controls and no proper scientific methodology and no real care for our food supply. Disease is a function of nutrition and not genome editing rubbish. They should be ashamed of themselves for putting out this maybe, might and possibility story. They are simply making up possible outcomes so that the industry throws more money to them. Disgusted.

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