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Posts Tagged: James Murray

Genetically engineered food animals meet resistance

Size comparison of an AquAdvantage Salmon (background) vs. a non-transgenic Atlantic salmon sibling (foreground) of the same age.
Scientists have been breeding genetically modified animals for decades, and assert they are perfectly safe, but to date none has been admitted into the U.S. food supply, reported Jef Akst on The Scientist.

The article reviewed the case of Enviropig, which was modified to produce lower levels of phosphorus in its manure, an environmental benefit because phosphorus can leach into groundwater beneath pig farms. The transgene also eliminates the cost of adding phosphorus to the animals' feed. Anti-GMO activists voiced loud opposition.

"They really targeted it and made it a bad thing," said Alison Van Eenennaam, UC Cooperative Extension specialist in the Department of Animal Science at UC Davis.

James Murray, professor in the UCD Animal Science Department, has used genetic modification to develop goats whose milk contains an antibacterial protein found in human breast milk that could help treat childhood diarrhea.

“Who would have thought when we started [manipulating animal genomes] in the early 1980s that at this point we would have no animals approved?" Murry said. “It's been over 30 years. I made my first transgenic sheep in 1985. We were all making [GM] mice before that, with an eye toward agriculture.”

Akst used the case of the AquAdvantage salmon as an object lesson about resistance to GMO animals. AquAdvantage salmon contain a gene from an eel-like ocean pout. It grows twice as fast on 25 percent less food compared to wild salmon. Despite safeguards its makers have in place to keep the GM fish away from their wild cousins - farming them in inland tanks, raising only sterile female fish - the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been holding off on approval for years.

“Fifteen or 20 years in, $70 million down the drain, and no decision,” Murray said. “Who wants to invest in the next transgenic animal product?”

Posted on Monday, June 2, 2014 at 1:36 PM

Transgenic goats' life-saving potential under study in Brazil

Technology developed by UC Davis animal scientist James Murray that could significantly reduce human suffering and death from diarrhea has found a home in Brazil.

Goats genetically altered to produce milk that prevents diarrhea have been in development in Murray's Davis lab for decades, according to an article in Technology Review. However, sensitivity to the idea of bioengineered animals in the United States has severely limited research funding. Currently the project is supported with a three-year, $400,000 USDA grant to assess the risks of transgenic animals.

"The only money available is to look at environmental safety. It's a backwards way of funding the research," Murray is quoted in the article. "We haven't gotten enough to move the research forward; we are four or five years behind where we should be."

In Brazil, where diarrhea is the fifth or sixth most common killer of children under five, the government has pledged $3.5 million to establish a herd of transgenic goats and initiate human trials on their milk.

"I think it's brilliant," Murray was quoted. "We want to see it used. We don't care which country does it."

The goats in Murray's lab were engineered to express large amounts of human lysozyme, a protein found in human milk, tears and saliva that destroys the cell walls of bacteria. Drinking the milk would inhibit establishment of the diarrhea organism.

The milk from transgenic goats could enter human trials in elementary school children within two years, the article said. If it proves effective, the Brazilian researchers hope they can powder the milk and export it other countries where many children are afflicted with diarrhea.

James Murray
James Murray

Posted on Friday, October 22, 2010 at 6:14 AM
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