The return of Dolly? An early morning exploration of sheep gene editing

Thomas Carrick, NSA Northern Region Chair opened with the background behind NSA delving deep into the controversial subject of genetics, explaining that Defra have released a consultation aimed at changing the regulation on genetic technologies in England and Wales in light of our exit from previous EU restrictions.

We at NSA felt that our members and wider interest groups would be keen to have a greater understanding of the genetic technologies available, in particular how gene editing differs from genetic modification, so we pulled together a panel of experts to help us out.

Dr. Simon Lillico from the Roslin Institute provided a brief history of general breeding practices and educated the audience on DNA - how the genome works and basic principles of genetics allowing a deeper exploration into how gene editing (GE) differs from genetic modification (GM). After an eye-opening presentation from Simon, Dr. Emily Clark (also from the Roslin Institute) explored how GE can be applied to the sheep sector to improve future welfare, productivity and sustainability. Emily’s presentation was focused on a novel use of GE to produce surrogate sires, aka ‘super dads’.

The webinar concluded with Thomas chairing a lively Q&A session, where Amanda Carson (President of the Sheep Vet Society), Mike Coffey (SRUC) and William Haresign (FANgR) joined Simon and Emily on discussing various genetics questions, the most important for our sector being that of public perception and acceptance of this technology. 

To read a more in depth report on this webinar, click here

Panellist William Haresign co-authored a paper for FAnGR titled "A Review of Current and New Technologies for Both Genetic Improvement and Breed Conservation of UK Farm Animal Genetic Resources" which embraces gene editing and is available to read here. There are two sections of particular relevance to the topics discussed in this NSA webinar: Genome editing on page 19, and Public acceptance and regulation on page 25.