Genetically Modified Fish and Alligator May Soon Become a Part of Our Diet

Alligators via Unsplash by Amber Kipp
Alligators via Unsplash by Amber Kipp

Life finds a way: Geneticists have developed disease-resistant catfish using alligator DNA — and they may become a part of our diet in the future.

A group of scientists at Auburn University published a paper in January documenting their efforts to genetically modify catfish with the cathelicidin gene of an alligator.

Cathelicidin, found in the intestines, is an antimicrobial peptide responsible for helping organisms fight diseases.

The gene —which was added using CRISPR — heightened disease resistance among the catfish in comparison to wild catfish. Researchers noted that the survival rates of the catfish were “two- and five-fold higher” in an interview with MIT Technology Review.

Because researchers added cathelicidin to a gene for a reproductive hormone, it also reduced the catfish’s ability to reproduce, which they said was essential to contain genetic contamination of the hybrid fish with wild catfish. 

The authors pointed out some uncertainties in using CRISPR technology — primarily used and studied in mammals— on fish. The paper has not yet been peer-reviewed.