Collaborative Success Stories: Pig Discovery
A line of pigs developed at the University of Missouri is resistant to incurable disease.
Pig farming is a $20 billion industry, with consumer demand increasing rapidly in the last decade. Unfortunately, a deadly virus affects many animals and costs North American farmers more than $600 million every year. Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus causes difficulty reproducing, failure to gain weight and death. There is no cure or vaccine.
In researching the disease, MU scientists Randy Prather, Kevin Wells and Kristin Whitworth discovered that the presence of a protein called CD163 allows pigs to become infected with PRRS. The team then edited the gene responsible for making CD163 so that it could no longer produce the protein and bred a line of pigs with the altered gene. When the pigs were exposed to PRRS, they did not become ill.
The scientists’ discovery could vastly reduce the financial, psychological and emotional costs that producers incur when their pigs develop PRRS. It is also an important advancement for animal welfare and sustainable farming.
Dr. Randall Prather is a distinguished professor of animal sciences, Dr. Kevin Wells is an associate professor of animal sciences and Dr. Kristin Whitworth is a research scientist in MU’s Division of Animal Sciences. All are housed in the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.
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