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Photo: The world’s first genetically modified lizard

Further studies of reptiles are likely to help in the study of human genes.

Normal and genetically modified lizards – both smaller adult fingers. University of Georgia photo

Scientists at the University of Georgia announced the results of a study on the creation of the first reptile using the CRISPR genome editing technology. First it told the journal Science.

The experiment was conducted on a brown anole (Anolis sagrei) lizard, which, after editing the genes, acquired a pale pink hue. “We really did not expect to create an albino lizard,” said study co-author Ashley Rasis.

Ashley Racis and one of the genetically modified lizards

Scientists have long been editing genes, for example, mice, pigs, goats, chickens and butterflies. But the standard approach was considered impossible to apply to reptiles due to the characteristics of the reproductive system: it was difficult for the lizards to catch the moment of fertilization, and then it was easy to damage the embryo. In order to solve the problem, the authors of the study took about two years: as a result, they applied the technology to oocytes that had not yet been fertilized.

In total, scientists processed 146 immature eggs, 21 reptiles. As a result, we have four pale pink lizards. The fact that the authors of the study “turned off” the tyrosinase gene, led to reptilian albinism.

“Now we can create from two to four mutant lizards per day of work,” said Douglas Menke, head of the relevant department at the University of Georgia. Further research, according to scientists, will help in the study of human genes: the same tyrosinase gene responds to processes in the development of the eye. It is common to anoles and humans, but absent in many animals that are commonly used in research.

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