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Tag: chinese

China creates “Super Dog” via gene editing

editeddogsFirst, scientists in South Korea brought us dog cloning — a chance, or so it was initially described, to use cells from your sick, dying or even dead dog to create the exact same dog again, in healthy puppy form.

It was a bad idea.

Now, scientists in China are hard at work on an equally worrisome one.

Chinese researchers report they have created a beagle with double the amount of muscle mass, through a process called “gene editing.”

Gene editing involves injecting embryos with a DNA snipping enzyme, Cas9, and a guide molecule that zeroes in on a particular stretch of DNA. The goal is to knock out the myostatin gene so a dog’s body can not produce any of the muscle-inhibiting protein that the gene manufactures.

The result, as they see it, is a Super Dog — useful to the police and military.

This is hardly the first time man has manipulated the species. We’ve been doing it for centuries by inbreeding them to create dogs that, while not necessarily healthier — and sometimes quite the opposite — better suit our needs and please our eyes.

But gene editing is, right up there with cloning, one of the more blatant, creepy and invasive routes man has taken.

And it prompts us to say, with more emotion than a scientist can probably understand: Dogs are already super, China. So leave them the hell alone.

To create one “super beagle,” the researchers injected more than 60 dog embryos. Less than half survived to birth. Of 27 puppies born, only two had the sought after disruption in their myostatin genes.

And in only one was the gene editing considered “complete,” said Liangxue Lai, a researcher at the Key Laboratory of Regenerative Biology at the Guangzhou Institutes of Biomedicine and Health.

Custom made, genetically engineered dogs will have “more muscles and are expected to have stronger running ability, which is good for hunting, police (military) applications,” Lai is quoted as saying in the MIT Technology Review

Lai and 28 colleagues reported their results last week in the Journal of Molecular Cell Biology, saying they intend to create dogs with other DNA mutations, including ones that mimic human diseases such as Parkinson’s and muscular dystrophy to be used in biomedical research.

South Korea’s dog cloners, in addition to cloning dogs for bereaved pet owners, are also creating dogs for the police and military, and dogs with diseases for research purposes.

Lai said his group had no plans breed to breed the extra-muscular beagles as pets. But, as the Review article points out, that wouldn’t stop others from moving to commercialize the gene-editing process.

A different Chinese Institute, BGI, said in September it had begun selling miniature pigs, created via gene editing, for $1,600 each as novelty pets.

And if gene editing follows the path of dog cloning, now available to dog owners for $100,000, its transition to marketplace will be swift an unregulated.

In addition to pigs, goats, rabbits, rats and monkeys have been engineered using gene editing in China, which considers the efforts a national scientific priority — much like South Korea did with dog cloning.

Lai’s team says the sole male dog they successfully produced, named Hercules, would pass the myostatin mutation on if he were to be bred.

“The favorable traits that result from gene editing can pass generation by generation,” says Lai.

“Favorable,” in this case, meaning what the researchers hoped for.

For the 33 embryos that didn’t survive, and perhaps for those that did, we’d hardly consider it favorable, or even necessary.

No dog lover should.

Edit your papers, scientists — not our dogs.

(Photo: Hercules, at left, and Tiangou, the world’s first gene-edited dogs, from MIT Technology Review)

Petco clears shelves of Chinese jerky treats


Petco says it has pulled all Chinese-made dog and cat treats from store shelves, fulfilling a promise the chain made to customers last May.

“We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially chicken jerky products, and we’ve heard their concerns,”  Jim Myers, Petco’s chief executive, said Monday — a good seven years after complaints first surfaced about chicken treats made in China sickening and killing dogs.

The FDA has been investigating the treats since 2007, but has yet to yet to establish a definite link to the deaths and sicknesses.

Thousands of pets have fallen ill — hundreds fatally — leading to 5,000 complaints of pet illnesses suspected to have been caused by chicken, duck, and vegetable jerky treats made in China.

Despite  steadily rising concerns, American companies continued to market the treats (under the names Waggin’ Tail and Milo’s Kitchen, among others), and the country’s largest pets stores, including Petco and PetSmart,  continued to sell them.

Petco,which has not sold China-made dog and cat foods for several years, announced last May that it would clear store shelves of the jerky treats. (We’re still not clear on why doing so would take seven months.)

PetSmart, which, like Petco, operates more than 1,300 stores nationally, has pledged to remove all Chinese-made pet treats from its stores by spring, according to the Washington Post.

Nestle Purina and Del Monte, which own the brands such Waggin’ Tail and Milo’s Kitchen, stopped selling chicken jerky dog treats made in China back in 2012, calling the shift precautionary.

The Petco announcement  applies only to treats made with jerky and rawhide, according to Lily Gluzberg, a spokesperson for the company.

The FDA has been unable to tie the illnesses specifically to Chinese-made pet foods, despite testing more than a thousand samples and  inspecting factories in China. But it continues to investigate.

PetSmart and Petco to pull China-made jerky treats off their shelves — finally


After thousands of reported illnesses and 1,000 dog deaths, PetSmart and Petco have announced they will stop selling all dog and cat treats made in China.

What took the retailers so long to reach the decision, and why it will take them seven to ten months more to purge store shelves of such items, remain questions worth asking.

So too is why the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has been investigating the treats for years — without determining what about them is making dogs sick — can’t tell us much more than “CAUTION,” with an exclamation point.

PetSmart said it will pull from the shelves all of the China-made treat it sells by March 2015.

Petco said it will accomplish that by the end of this year.

Both retailers have about 1,300 stores nationwide.

The two national pet retailers’ decisions came after seven years of complaints to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration about jerky treats from China making pets sick, or worse.

“We know some pet parents are wary of dog and cat treats made in China, especially chicken jerky products, and we’ve heard their concerns,” said Jim Myers, Petco CEO, in a statement.

A PetSmart spokesperson, meanwhile, told USA Today it has been working toward this goal “for some time, and feel it’s the right thing to do for pets and our customers.”

Taking questionable Chinese-made treats off the shelves strikes us as a pretty simple task, as opposed to “a goal to work toward.” You just pick them up and put them in the garbage. And while “hearing customer concerns” is commendable, it shouldn’t take three or four years for them to sink in.

The move comes as sales of Chinese made jerky treats diminish, amid increasing public concerns about them.

Five years ago, 90% of the pet industry’s jerky treats were made in China, said Lisa Stark, spokeswoman for Petco. Currently, about 50% of the jerky treats sold by Petco are from China.

Since 2007, the FDA says it has received about 4,800 reports of pet illnesses, and 1,000 dog deaths, possibly related to the consumption of jerky treats. The FDA, while issuing warnings, says it has yet to establish any direct link between the pet illnesses and the China-made treats.

Most of the complaints involved chicken jerky, but others included duck, sweet potato and chicken, according to the FDA.

Tainted dog food suspected in China

A Shanghai distributor of a popular brand of dog food said Monday it had suspended sales of the product following reports that dogs who ate it died from poisoning.

While China’s recent food safety scandals have centered on locally made products, it wasn’t immediately clear whether the suspicious dog food was local or imported, the Associated Press reported.

A customer service manager at Shanghai Yidi Pet Co. said the company stopped selling Optima brand dog food last week after reports that more than a dozen dogs who ate it had died from aflatoxin poisoning.

A report Monday in the Shanghai Daily newspaper said at least 20 dogs in four Chinese cities, including Beijing, had died since the end of November from liver complications from aflatoxin.

It wasn’t clear who makes the Optima brand involved in the complaints.

Read more »

In memory of Gus, “World’s Ugliest Dog”

Gus, the irrepressible, one-eyed, three-legged, nine-year-old Chinese crested who was named the World’s Ugliest Dog at the 20th Annual Sonoma-Marin Fair in northern California, has died of skin cancer.

Gus, from St. Petersburg, Florida, was rescued by his owners, Jeanenne Teed and her daughter Janey, after they learned that it was being kept in a crate in someone’s garage.

When her pet won the contest in June, Teed said the prize money would be put toward the dog’s radiation treatment. Gus, who lost an eye in a fight with a cat, was also missing a leg that was amputated because of a skin tumor.

When Gus accompanied Janey to school one day, frightened teachers corralled him into a bathroom with a broomstick. He had a long, skinny rat tail, and looked as if he had been in a fire.

“He was the most hideous thing I had ever seen,” Jeanenne told the St. Petersburg Times, which ran an excellent story yesterday on the demise of Gus.

Recently, the cancer that took his leg returned, appearing in his spine and pressing into his abdomen. By September, he was too weak to walk. Jeaneanne, a certified public accountant, used his prize money, and her mortgage payment for October, to pay the $5,000 bill for chemotherapy.

Gus was buried in a tiny grave in the family’s backyard. Next to it, Jeaneanne planted a Butterfly bush with golden flowers.

“Something beautiful,” she said, “to grow out of all that ugly.”

The monkey on Sai Hu’s back

An orphan monkey at a Chinese Zoo was being bullied by bigger primates, so zookeepers gave the little fellow his own personal guard dog.

Keepers at Jiaozuo City Zoo said the monkey was always being picked on, and that they had intervened to save his life several times.

“So we put a dog in the monkey cage, hoping he can protect the orphan,” a zoo spokesman told the China News Network.

The zoo said the dog, Sai Hu, does his job well.

“Whenever the baby monkey gets bullied, he dashes up and drives the others away. And the baby monkey is also very smart. Each time he smells danger he runs to jump on the dog’s back and holds on tight.

“The alpha male monkey has been really unhappy since we sent in Sai Hu. He tried to organize several ambushes on the little monkey, but they all failed because of the dog,” added the spokesman.