Scientists in Argentina have figured out a way to genetically engineer super horses that can outperform their competitors. The team behind the discovery used a process called CRISPR, which stands for clustered regularly inter-spaced palindromic repeats. Using an advanced gene-splicing technique, the researchers at were able to reconfigure the genomes of cloned horses. Healthy embryos were created, so they plan to implant them into a female horse within the next two years, the Independent reports.
The breakthrough was made at Kheiron Biotech, a horse-cloning company based in Buenos Aires. During the experiment, they targetted the equine myostatin gene sequence which is responsible for the growth of muscle in horses. Focusing on this gene sequence will enable the horses to gain more muscle mass, The Daily Mail reports.
According to its website, Kheiron Biotech provides breeding programs with the ability to obtain genetic matches of their top-performing racehorses. This new development will, therefore, allow them to tweak the genetic makeup of their foals even further. So, these genetic super horses could be able to jump higher and run faster and longer, as a result of the process.
"This technology brings additional progress in horse breeding. It could be possible to achieve better horses in less time," Daniel Sammartino said in an interview with the Telegraph, as reported by the Daily Mail. "Our next big challenge is not only to export our technology but fundamentally develop these scientific advances in other animals for multiple purposes."
There's no word yet on the potential side effects that this genetic engineering could have on foals born as a result of this process.
This isn't the first time that genetically modified horses have made headlines this year. As Collective Evolution reports, in October, images of a designer "cartoon-like" horse went viral. The horse's skull was excessively deformed, which made it look more like a toy horse than an actual one.Despite its unusual appearance, its breeders claimed that the horse was "close to perfection," but veterinarians contended that was far from true. A group of vets got together and published an article in the journal Veterinary Record that criticized the breeders for their practices. One vet said that the modifications to the horse's snout could negatively affect its breathing. Horses are nose-breathers exclusively. Since they can't breathe through their mouths, any genetic changes to that area of their body will prove problematic.
Other horse experts expressed concern about these genetic traits being passed on to future generations.