It sounds like something out of science fiction; splicing DNA from one animal into another to create some sort of genetic hybrid, but Peng Peng the sheep has made it science fact. The adorable newly-cloned lamb has become the first sheep to have a bit of a worm spliced into him, making him the very first worm-sheep on the planet.
OK, it’s not like he slithers around on the floor like a woolly worm or anything; in fact you can’t tell that he's a genetic hybrid from just looking at him. But he's the first of his kind.
Chinese researchers have taken a gene from the model organism C. elegans, a nematode worm, and blended it with Peng Peng’s DNA. The gene basically makes him better to eat, getting him to produce “good” fat rather than an animal’s standard “bad” fat. The lead researcher behind the project, Du Yutao from the Beijing Genomics Institute in Shenzhen, told Reuters:
"The gene was originally from the C. elegans (roundworm), which has been shown (in previous studies) to increase unsaturated fatty acids which is very good for human health.”
Basically the Chinese are trying to make eating lamb better for you, and why not? We’ve almost gotten used to the thought of eating genetically modified crops that are healthier for you, or that grow better – so why not make your meat better for your health too? If they can make lamb, beef or any other meat that’s as healthy for you as vegetables it’s a win-win situation – even if it’s a worm-sheep chop you’re munching on. [BGI via Reuters]