Appropriate choice of an animal model is an important consideration when conducting biomedical research. Our lab is working towards developing animal models for translational research of intestinal diseases using the pig. We are using gene editing techniques (CRISPR/Cas9) to generate pig models of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Chemically induced IBD, while commonly used in rodents, may not accurately capitulate the underlying causes of the disease as do genetic models. Gene editing tools now allow for specific genetic changes to be made in an efficient manner in livestock species, something that was in the past only possible in mice. We are also working on developing a tissue-specific inducible method for CRISPR gene knockout that could be applied to any tissue or species for both fundamental and applied research purposes. For agricultural purposes, we are working to develop a platform for producing sterile males for biocontainment of genetically engineered food animals. Stakeholders such as farmers, regulators and the general public have concerns regarding the safety of gene editing technology in food animals and some of these concerns include the specificity of gene editing events and the containment of genetically modified/gene edited animals. Sterile males would reduce the potential for transfer of a transgene beyond breeding stocks and alleviate boar taint and the need for castration of male pigs thus improving the welfare, efficiency and sustainability of pork production.
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