Researchers Have Successfully Gene-Edited Reptiles To Produce Albino Lizards

Scientists from the University of Georgia have successfully performed gene-editing to produce four genetically altered albino lizards by making use of the CRISPR-Cas9 gene-editing tool. The research was published in the Cell and shows that lizards can successfully pass gene-edited alleles that cause albinism to the offspring. The breakthrough aims to help researchers understand the vision problems experienced by humans with albinism.

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The use of CRISPR technology has led to breakthroughs in gene-editing in humans, plants and mice. This is the first time someone has successfully edited a reptile’s genes using the technology. Gene editing using CRISPR is done by injecting solutions in animals’ freshly fertilized egg or single-cell embryo that causes a mutation to occur in the DNA which is copied by rest of the cells.

The problem scientists faced in reptiles is that they didn’t have any method to figure out the exact moment of fertilization as female lizards can store sperm in their oviducts for an extended period. Also, the physiology of the fertilized eggs makes it difficult for manipulating the embryos without damaging them. They overcame the problems by injecting the CRISPR protein solutions into several immature eggs present in the lizard’s ovaries. They targeted the tyrosinase gene and were successfully able to inject 146 immature eggs in 21 lizards and then, waited for them to fertilize naturally. After a few weeks, four offspring with traits of albinism were born as a result of inactivated tyrosinase gene.

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The study of genes in brown anoles is important for human genetic modifications. The tyrosinase gene is an integral part of eye development in humans and anoles. Researchers have been trying to find ways to manipulate the gene to correct human ocular defects but did not have a suitable animal test subject as the commonly used lab subjects like mice do not have a tyrosinase gene.

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Original Source: https://in.mashable.com/science/6253/researchers-have-successfully-gene-edited-reptiles-to-produce-albino-lizards

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