Scientists have used a gene-editing technology to make cows more resistant to tuberculosis.

The researchers used a tool called CRISPR-Cas9, by which scientists can make changes to DNA in order to potentially make creatures more resistant to diseases, correct detrimental genetic mutations and other applications. In this case, they inserted a gene into cows that would make them resistant to bovine tuberculosis, then successfully bred that resistance into their offspring. Their findings were reported in the journal Genome Biology, with the authors saying the result demonstrates a possible use of the technology and contributes to the concept of gene-editing for agricultural purposes.

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“Importantly, our method produced no off-target effects on the cow genetics,” lead author Dr. Yong Zhang explained, according to the Daily Mail.

The researchers from Northwest A&F University in Xianyang, China, wrote in their study that those “off-target effects” — unintended and unrelated results — are an issue when it comes to animals whose genes have been purposely modified.

Although it holds great potential to cure or treat disease and other ailments, CRISPR remains a controversial technology, with some people fearing it will be used to create “designer babies” or be used for unethical purposes.

Source: Zhang Y, Gao Y, Wu H, et al. Single Cas9 nickase induced generation of NRAMP1 knockin cattle with reduced off-target effects. Genome Biology. 2017.

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