Scientists Used CRISPR Gene Editing to Choose the Sex of Mouse Pups

S. Fan,  Singuarity Hub,  2021.

“Do you want a boy or a girl?” can be an awkward question.But in certain circles, it’s a question that’s asked every day. Take agriculture. In a perfect world, most cows would only birth females. Chicks would grow up to be all hens. “Sexing” a farm animal when they’re at a young age wouldn’t be a thing—especially when it means male animals, without the ability to produce milk or eggs, are often culled at a young age to preserve resources. There might be a better way. This month, a team tapped into the power of CRISPR to control the sex of the offspring in mice. By splicing CRISPR components into the parents’ genome, the team was able to flip on—or off—a switch that nearly perfectly determined the sex of their litters. Unlike previous attempts, the baby mice could go on to have litters of their own of both sexes. The targeted gene used for the edit is conserved across evolution, suggesting the technique could work in more animals than just mice. But it’s controversial. Essentially, the technique selectively kills off embryos of a certain sex, which immediately raises ethical red flags. For now, scientists aren’t concerned about the technology being used in humans due to its complexity. But the study is the latest to showcase biotech’s increasing ability to manipulate reproduction.

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