Chinese Scientists Successfully Created GM Lamb With a ‘Good’ Type of Fat

Chinese scientists have successfully created a genetically modified lamb containing good fat. The cloned lamb was named Peng Peng, and was from a Chinese Merino variety.

“Peng Peng”, which has a roundworm fat gene, weighed in at 5.74 kg, was born on March 26 in a laboratory of Xinjiang, a region in western China.

According to The Daily Mail, the scientists, led by Du Yutao, took a gene from the roundworm called Caenorhabditis elegans, which is known to produce polyunsaturated fatty acids, an unsaturated fatty acid that contain more than one double bond in their backbone, and implanted into the sheep genome. In fact, Du and teams inserted the gene associated with the production of polyunsaturated fatty acids into a donor cell taken from the ear of a Chinese Merino sheep. The cell was then inserted into an unfertilized egg and implanted into the womb of a surrogate sheep.

The goal of this study is to reduce the number of saturated fat in the animals and to ensure that the animals consist of higher levels of polyunsaturated fats, a type of unsaturated fats that helps reduce the risk of heart disease.

Fats can be divided into two main groups – saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are generally solid at room temperature and are usually from animal sources. Eating too much saturated fat is associated with increased blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. Unsaturated fats are generally a healthier alternative to saturated fats and can be found in fish, nuts, seeds, and olive oils.

“The gene was originally from C. elegans (roundworms), where in previous studies has been shown to increase unsaturated fatty acids,” says Du Yutao who led the research, as reported in Reuters.

But there are concerns about the safety of genetically modified foods and it will be several years before meat from such GM animals find its way into the Chinese food markets.

“The Chinese government encourages the GM project but we need to have better methods and results to prove that transgenic plants and animals are harmless and safe for consumption,” Du said.

The United States is the world leader in producing GM crops. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the sale of food from clones and their offspring, saying the products were indistinguishable from those non-cloned animals.

U.S. biotech firm AquaBounty’s patented genetically modified Atlantic salmon are widely billed as growing at double the speed and could be approved by U.S. regulators as earlier as this summer.