Gene-Edited “Micropigs” to Be Sold as Pets

Oct 8, 2015

©iStock.com

By David Cyranoski

Cutting-edge gene-editing techniques have produced an unexpected byproduct — tiny pigs that a leading Chinese genomics institute will soon sell as pets.

BGI in Shenzhen, the genomics institute that is famous for a series of high-profile breakthroughs in genomic sequencing, originally created the micropigs as models for human disease, by applying a gene-editing technique to a small breed of pig known as Bama. On September 23, at the Shenzhen International Biotech Leaders Summit in China, BGI revealed that it would start selling the pigs as pets. The animals weigh about 15 kilograms when mature, or about the same as a medium-sized dog.

At the summit, the institute quoted a price tag of 10,000 yuan (US$1,600) for the micropigs, but that was just to “help us better evaluate the market”, says Yong Li, technical director of BGI’s animal-science platform. In future, customers will be offered pigs with different coat colours and patterns, which BGI says it can also set through gene editing.

With gene editing taking biology by storm, the field’s pioneers say that the application to pets was no big surprise. Some also caution against it. “It’s questionable whether we should impact the life, health and well-being of other animal species on this planet light-heartedly,” says geneticist Jens Boch at the Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg in Germany. Boch helped to develop the gene-editing technique used to create the pigs, which uses enzymes known as TALENs (transcription activator-like effector nucleases) to disable certain genes.

How to regulate the various applications of gene-editing is an open question that scientists are already discussing with agencies across the world. BGI agrees on the need to regulate gene editing in pets as well as in the medical research applications that make up the core of its micropig activities. Any profits from the sale of pets will be invested in this research. “We plan to take orders from customers now and see what the scale of the demand is,” says Li.


Read the full story by clicking the name of the source below.

29 comments on “Gene-Edited “Micropigs” to Be Sold as Pets

  • That’s all the world needs: a new type of pet to consume vast amounts of food, foul the pavements and parks, frighten children and create a non productive, high value industry, which produces nothing of value.

    I do have a dog, an abandoned animal, so soon we in rural areas will also have the privilege of re-housing mini pigs which townsfolk dump in our fields and forests.



    Report abuse

  • I actually think we should all keep native animals only as pets. Here in Australia we have a wides selection of suitable animals to choose from. Hell there are possums living in my roof already, I may as well invite them in. An echidna in the backyard would stop me getting termites, and if they get loose they will hardly cause a feral animal problem.



    Report abuse

  • And Quolls would be great. A cross marsupial cross between a cat and a dog. Great pets I’m told. Pity they’re on the brink of extinction due to cats and foxes, introduced from Europe to this great island continent.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_M23mYaoTo

    When I read this article, it makes me think….Haven’t we got something more important to study in science, than creating a mutant pig for folks to anthropomorphize.



    Report abuse

  • 6
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    @eejit:

    That’s all the world needs: a new type of pet to consume vast amounts of food, foul the pavements and parks, frighten children and create a non productive, high value industry, which produces nothing of value.

    Couldn’t agree more. Plus, the idea of using cutting edge genetic engineering to cater to what is in many cases nothing more than a passing whim is both vain and frankly, more than a bit immoral. Every week, animal shelters euthanize thousands of unwanted, mistreated or abandoned pets…

    What reason do we have to believe the outcome would be any different for these mini-pigs? How much do you want to bet that many, if not most of them would end up as overpriced mini-bacon on the menu of truckstop diners across America?



    Report abuse

  • There can be no such thing. I have heard recently that Muslims and Jews are banning their children from having anything to do with the cartoon character Peppa Pig. The poor animal cannot get a break in any form. Hated or heated… to a crisp.



    Report abuse

  • Peppa Pig is brilliant!

    Unfortunately my son now 7 has outgrown it (and not yet grown back into it). I found myself when he was young drawn into his world of TV viewing, when he was about 3-4 he was really into The Night Garden, I kept reading into it things like love triangles between the Tombliboo characters (one of the poor buggers is always on the outer -must have been hell when you are all having to sleep in the same bed – and who of us hasn’t been there at some point in our youth?), wondering when the sexual tension between Iggle Piggle and Upsidaisy would finally be resolved (she did have a bed constantly following her around – dropping hints it seemed to me), I was constantly worrying about Macca Pakka’s mental health he really needed to seek some help for his OCD (and let’s face it the rest of them were just enablers in that regard), not to mention the constantly changing scales and relative sizes of characters in relation to their transport devices. I suspect there was some physicist in writing team trying to prepare kids for accepting quantum strangeness latter in life, of course the tile sequence suggests that it is all some near death fever dream of some poor bugger on a life raft lost at sea, stuff of nightmares really. Of course I’m sensible enough to keep all this to myself and not disturb my poor son with my reflections.

    I wonder what the Muslims think of Ben and Holly’s magic Kingdom.



    Report abuse

  • but kinda of pointless (besides being adorable).

    Same as a whole variety of dog breed. The fact that these pigs were ‘non-organic’ seem to make people angry. Personally, I’m not a fan of the ‘living toy’ market.



    Report abuse

  • We plan to take orders now…

    Just in time for Christmas, a stocking stuffer.

    However, the u.s. FDA, and other regulatory boards, are cautious – L.A. Times article suggests this is to the chagrin of BGI. Understandable, when a product is at the starting gate, but(!), foist ye shall not, yet.



    Report abuse

  • Ben is much too complicated and would need thinking about which in turn might cause them to ask even more questions on magic. But pig……



    Report abuse

  • BGI in Shenzhen, the genomics institute that is famous for a series of high-profile breakthroughs in genomic sequencing, originally created the micropigs as models for human disease…

    What’s more important than curing disease?



    Report abuse

  • Reckless Monkey

    (she did have a bed constantly following her around – dropping hints it seemed to me),

    Jeeze! It’s well known that she had a severe sleeping disorder! There you go seeing the world through testosterone colored glasses! 🙂



    Report abuse

  • 24
    Philippo54 says:

    Strange to find this here. RD’s family farm, Over Norton Park, being near Chipping Norton, constituency of that famous MP.



    Report abuse

  • I wish it was a good idea to have native animals as pets. I’d join up in an instant. I believe the reasoning behind not allowing it is that who wouldn’t want their ringtail possum to have a whiter, fluffier tail or quolls to come in a variety of colours? Let a few from the domestic varieties get into the wild population and bingo, we’ve messed it up again. Of course, any of these pigs becoming strays will be devastating to a country not already plagued by a feral population. Doesn’t mean it won’t be tempting to have a pet-sized pig though. A pet as smart as a human toddler? You can see the thin end of the wedge already.
    I think ALL animals bred as pets should be neutered before sale. Makes them more valuable and less likely to become strays and they can’t breed up if they go feral.



    Report abuse

Leave a Reply

View our comment policy.