SCIENTISTS have put alligator DNA in catfish to make them live longer.
Millions of fish are harvested across the world each year, but nearly half are killed due to diseases.
However, studies have found that by inserting alligator genes into catfish, their survival chances increase by fivefold.
The gene, dubbed cathelicidin, contains properties that protect reptiles from infections when wounded.
Typically, farmers treat sick fish with antibiotics, but this contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
But now scientists at Auburn University in Alabama are fusing the DNA of the two species.
They detailed their findings on the preprint server bioRxiv. The paper has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Scientists used CRISPR to insert the alligator gene that codes for cathelicidin into catfish.
It found the survival rate of the genetically modified fish was resistant to a common infection.
The fish are also sterile and can’t reproduce unless they are injected with reproductive hormones, MIT Technology reported.
“On a per-pound basis, anywhere from 60 to 70 percent of US aquaculture is… catfish production,” says Rex Dunham, who works on the genetic improvement of catfish at Auburn University in Alabama.
But catfish farming is a great breeding ground for infections, however, thanks to this new method we may see fewer catfish deaths.
What’s more, farming fish that are resistant to disease will produce less waste, aquaculture researcher Greg Lutz from Louisiana State University told MIT.
However, Lutz also pointed out that the CRISPR catfish may not be the future of aquaculture.
“It’s just too difficult to produce enough of these fish to get a viable, genetically healthy line going,” he said.
There are over 3,000 catfish species in the world, and they are mostly bred for human consumption.
Their name refers to the prominent barbels, which resemble a cat’s whiskers.
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