Gene editing produces all-male or all-female litters of mice

E. Pennisi,  Science,  2021.

In some farmers’ ideal world, cows would birth only females, sows would bear no boars, and chicks would all grow up to be hens. Such sex ratios would stop them from killing millions of male animals, which don’t produce eggs or milk. Now, scientists are a step closer to this reality. Researchers have harnessed the gene editor CRISPR to produce litters of mice all of one sex. That’s a potential boon to agriculture and may offer a more immediate advantage in scientific research. “The paper shows a state-of-the-art solution to producing single-sex species,” with “impressive results,” says Ehud Qimron, a CRISPR expert at Tel Aviv University who was not involved with the work. The impact for lab animals may be huge. “In the past 5 years around 25,000 papers were published using mice in sex-specific research studies,” says study co-author James Turner, a molecular geneticist at the Francis Crick Institute. “If we could prevent the generation of the unstudied sex, the number [saved] would be in the hundreds of thousands.” Other methods exist to skew the male/female ratio of newborn animals. Scientists can sort sperm by the weight of the sex chromosome, or cause embryos of one sex to die before birth. In a study published 2 years ago, researchers using the gene editor CRISPR managed to produce altered mice in which four of five litters were all female.

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