Scientists are experimenting with mixing the genetics of different animal species to fight diseases. A group of scientists from Auburn University experimented with a bizarre animal gene combination and created a catfish-alligator hybrid.
The scientists only implanted one alligator gene into the catfish but that one gene can be a game-changer. Catfish are susceptible to diseases and the single alligator gene can make the catfish more immune to illness. The mutation can help farmers struggling with fish loss.
The interesting aspect of this experiment is that researchers are saying that people can feast on alligator-catfish hybrids.
Although the thought of shoving a fork into an alligator meat sound revolting, it’s not an unusual sight. The genetic mix-up doesn’t show in its appearance, it will resemble the standard catfish.
The fish have a gene called cathelicidin from the alligator and it is a protein found in the intestines. It has antimicrobial properties and helps organisms fight off diseases. With their new alligator gene, the hybrid fish are able to produce cathelicidin.
“The survival rate of the cathelicidin transgenic fish was between two- and five-fold higher,” the research team’s leader Rex Dunham said.
The results from the study are favorable as the hybrid fish resist disease and live longer. The researchers took extra precautionary measures to ensure that the hybrid catfish can’t breed should they make their way into the lakes.
The researchers used a technology called CRISPR to add alligator genes to the fish. This technology allows users to add and eliminate genes in the target DNA chain.
When they added the alligator genes, the researchers removed a gene responsible for reproduction. The catfish are genetically incapable of making babies if they escaped into the wild.
The team may have covered all the bases but it’s still questionable whether people would jump at the opportunity to eat a catfish-alligator.