Scientists at Auburn University Experiment by 'Fusing the DNA' of Alligator Genes and Catfish Genes for Aquaculture

Zack Love

What happens when scientists insert alligator genes into catfish? Scientists at Auburn University are trying to create a breed of catfish that are more resistant to disease and produce less waste, but it may be more trouble than it's worth, says one aquaculture researcher.
CatfishPhoto byYosuke OtaonUnsplash

After hearing about the latest experiments, some might start to ask, "What kind of mad science is going on at Auburn University?"

It's all about the catfish, and Alabama is one of the states known for producing catfish along with Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Fish processors want an ideal catfish that weighs between 1 to 4 lbs., and this is a big business in these states. So much so, that some might pay for genetically engineered fish that don't get sick as easily as normal fish.
Auburn University ScientistsPhoto byAuburn University

Auburn Scientists Created a 'Healthier' Catfish in the Experiment

Auburn is taking information that they know from recent studies that show that when alligator genes are inserted into catfish, "their survival chances increase by fivefold." This is because they want the alligator genes for cathelicidin, which is a peptide found in alligator blood that has antimicrobial properties that protect alligators from getting infections.

The thought process is if the catfish are healthier, then the catfish farmers don't have to treat their sick fish with antibiotics.

Auburn scientists published their findings of what happened when they inserted the alligator genes into the catfish, and also made the fish sterile, so there would be no impact if any got away. These genetically engineered fish had a "two to five times higher survival rate" than the typical catfish.

Their findings have not yet been peer-reviewed as of the publication date.

According to Canada Today, they reported that only one genetically engineered fish is currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and that is a genetically engineered salmon.

The U.S. Sun reported that aquaculture researcher Greg Lutz from Louisiana State University said that it isn't easy to just produce genetically engineered fish. While the end goal is to produce fish that are healthier, it's not easy to get the fish to naturally create a healthy line.

He said:

"It’s just too difficult to produce enough of these fish to get a viable, genetically healthy line going," -Greg Lutz, aquaculture researcher (Source: The U.S. Sun)

Auburn may have proven that they can create 'healthier' catfish, but will it be worth getting this to take place in nature?

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Regan, Mason. "Scientists use CRISPR to add an alligator gene to catfish." Canada Today. 2 February 2023.

Jaupi, Joni. "Scientists inject fish with alligator DNA to create mutant creatures that live longer." The U.S. Sun. 1 February 2023.

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Zack covers interesting and inspiring news stories that impact local communities. He has a bachelor's degree and an MBA.

Huntsville, AL

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