The workshop highlighted the interlocking themes underlying the debate over livestock disease research, following a series of high profile epidemics and pandemics over the last two decades, including BSE, foot and mouth disease, bird flu, and PRRSV (Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome Virus) in pigs, coupled with the public relations problems facing GM technologies.
It was clear that new technologies under the banner of GM have the potential to provide disease resistance with huge benefits for human health, animal welfare, and the agricultural sector, but only if public confidence can be restored. The ethical and societal dimension therefore featured strongly during the ESF workshop, according to convenor Bruce Whitelaw, Head of Developmental Biology at the Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies in Scotland. “There was a very thought provoking presentation by Kenneth Boyd (from Environmental Research Institute in UK) on “what our conscience wants”. This was one of the scene setting talks and was intended to make us consider up-front the ethical debate,” said Whitelaw.
A major issue with GM was that it was deployed too soon with inefficient, inaccurate technology, and often for the wrong reasons, to benefit farmers and pharmaceutical companies rather than consumers. But the technical limitations are being overcome through new methods highlighted at the ESF workshop. “There was a very exciting presentation by Chamsy Sarkis (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique in France) indicating the amazing new technologies and methods for gene transfer. The take home message is that soon we will be able to engineer the animal genome efficiently and in a precise manner,” said Whitelaw.
At the same time GM technologies are being redirected towards animal health and welfare, according to Whitelaw. “The use of GM in farm species has been to-date focussed on high value products (e.g. animal bioreactors producing pharmaceuticals in milk). In the future much more effort will be applied to improve the health and welfare of animals through GM technology, with a second important topic being the generation of more appropriate animal models of human disease to enhance the development of better disease intervention strategies.”
There has already been some success employing GM techniques to engineer disease resistance in animals. It is now possible to produce cattle lacking the gene that makes the prion protein responsible for BSE. Calves produced this way appear to be completely healthy, suggesting that the prion protein is not necessary, or that it has back up proteins that perform its functions. Either way, there is a real prospect of eliminating BSE from cattle livestock.
In the case of viral disease, other techniques apart from GM may be appropriate. The huge potential of RNA Interference was discussed at the conference, whereby the ability of viruses to produce the proteins they need for replication from the genetic information encoded in their RNA is blocked. This could help prevent pigs from contracting the deadly PRRSV, or chickens from getting bird flu.
But much more research is needed, and the ESF workshop helped bring together researchers with the relevant expertise in Europe. The workshop identified Europe’s leading position in livestock disease research, spearheaded by the Scottish Network of Excellence “Development of Novel Technologies to Fight Viral Diseases in Farm Animals”, which is a model for a possible Europe-wide consortium.
The ESF Exploratory Workshop on Genetic Models of Disease Resistance in Livestock was held in Edinburgh, UK in October 2007. Each year, ESF supports approximately 50 Exploratory Workshops across all scientific domains. These small, interactive group sessions are aimed at opening up new directions in research to explore new fields with a potential impact on developments in science.
Thomas Lau | alfa
Fighting a destructive crop disease with mathematics
21.06.2017 | University of Cambridge
Unusual soybean coloration sheds a light on gene silencing
20.06.2017 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.06.2017 | Information Technology