‘Super Daddy’ Animals With Elite Sperm Could Breed Their Way to Climate Change Survival
Livestock with gene-edited testicles can help humans survive an increasingly food-insecure world
In a Pullman, Washington, laboratory barn, goat #1962 has one purpose: Go forth and multiply.
#1962 is in the world’s first-ever generation of a gene-edited “Super Daddy” or “Surrogate Sire” goat. This means he has the balls (literally) to pass on not his but another, more elite buck’s DNA.
Project leader and reproductive biologist Jon Oatley, PhD, has been working on the concept for 20 years. He believes surrogate sires will be key to breeding livestock that produce more meat, dairy, and fiber while withstanding the effects of climate change.
“As the climate changes and populations grow, we’re asking animals to do more for less,” Oatley tells Future Human. “If you can change the genetics, that is an intrinsic variable in an animal that can influence how easily they convert inputs to outputs.”
Breeding surrogate sires, as Oatley and his team describe in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, is a two-part process. First, the gene-editing tool CRISPR is used to create sterile male goats, pigs, and cattle. Then, stem cells from another male animal of the same species are implanted into their testicles, resulting in a male that can pass on the genetics of a different male. The six-year study is a collaborative project between researchers at WSU, Utah State University, the University of Maryland, and the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh.
The surrogate sires project is a rapid-response strategy to quickly and efficiently breed climate-resistant livestock, Oatley says. Take, for example, the Nelore cattle breed.
A large, tough breed that sports loose, thick black skin and white hair that reflects the sun’s rays, the Nelore is the most popular cattle breed in Brazil because of its resistance to heat and insects and its ability to withstand extreme weather…