A team of scientists in China has created dogs with double the usual muscle mass by editing out a key muscle-inhibiting gene, MIT Technology Review reports.
The team used a gene-editing technique called CRISPR-Cas9 to remove from beagle embryos a gene called myostatin, which normally makes a protein that inhibits muscle growth. (The same gene-editing process was recently used to make pig organs safer for human use in transplants.)
The resulting beagles have "more muscles and are expected to have stronger running ability, which is good for hunting, police (military) applications," researcher Liangxue Lai told the publication.
The idea wasn't to create super-dogs, however. The scientists say they hope to take what they have learned and create more gene-edited dogs -- ones with mutations that behave like human diseases such as Parkinson's, which could help them better understand such ailments.
"The goal of the research is to explore an approach to the generation of new disease dog models for biomedical research," Lai told MIT Tech. "Dogs are very close to humans in terms of metabolic, physiological, and anatomical characteristics."
Lai also said his team won't become involved in breeding gene-hacked, designer pets. Whether someone else will is an open question.
via MIT Technology Review