The Joint Annual Scientific Meetings of the Endocrine Society of Australia and the Society for Reproductive Biology 2018

Legacies of the revolutions and evolutions in animal production (#7)

Christopher G Grupen 1
  1. Sydney School of Veterinary Science, Faculty of Science, The University of Sydney, Camden, NSW, Australia

Over the past 50 years, the production of animals for agricultural and biomedical research purposes has advanced radically through the use of breakthrough technologies that involve the transfer or manipulation of gametes, embryos, somatic cells, and the genome itself. The dissemination of valuable male and female genetics by artificial insemination and embryo transfer revolutionised animal breeding programs, particularly in livestock species. Continued genetic improvement of livestock using advanced reproductive technologies (ARTs) and quantitative selection schemes will be vital to meet the future global demand for food. The development of associated ARTs, including oestrus synchronisation and superovulation, embryo in vitro production and culture, and sperm and embryo cryopreservation, have not only enabled wider dissemination of valuable genetics, but also facilitated the detailed study of gamete and embryo biology. Without the knowledge gained from animal studies, the treatment of infertility in humans could not have advanced to the stage it is today. To date, an estimated 6 million children have been born worldwide as a result of in vitro fertilisation, an incredible legacy indeed. The birth of Dolly the sheep, the first animal cloned by somatic cell nuclear transfer, heralded a new era in the generation of genetically engineered (GE) animals. Also, recent advances in genome editing techniques have been stunning, making it much easier to achieve the desired genetic manipulations with greater precision. Consequently, the number of GE animals produced to provide models of human diseases is increasing dramatically, advancing research into major public health problems, such as neurodegenerative disorders, heart disease, and diabetes. It remains to be seen whether meat from GE livestock will be approved for human consumption, but given the undeniable benefits to production and continuous world population growth, it seems certain that such animals will one day be used to help meet the global demand for food.