Scientists at SKUAST working on gene editing to increase yield of Pashmina wool
Srinagar: Twelve years after cloning the first Pashmina goat ‘Noorie’, the scientists from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) are now working on gene editing technology that can increase the yield of famed cashmere wool.
Noorie died earlier this month after living a life span of a normal Pashmina goat. However, the cloning team at SKUAST has not stopped its work on improving the quality of animals.
“We recently submitted a few projects to the ICAR. Currently, we are running a project on gene editing of the same Pashmina goats in which we were able to produce the edited cloned embryos of these goats,” researchers involved in the project said.
The aim is to create a cloned Pashmina goat with an edited genome.
“Once we are able to transfer the edited genes to the recipients and produce an offspring out of it, that will be the cloned edited goat. Our aim is to just increase the Pashmina (wool) production and so we have targeted a gene with which we can achieve this,” they added.
Giving the background of the cloning project, they said the process in India started with buffaloes at the National Dairy Institute of Karnal.
“I was working for the PhD research program at Karnal where we were able to clone Buffalo, which was the first clone produced in India, in any livestock species. Later on, once I moved back to my native department, we had one project from ICAR and the main aim of that project was to produce clones of Pashmina goats,” one of the researchers said.
The Pashmina goat is native to the Ladakh region and it lives at high altitudes with low oxygen, he said.
“It took us almost three years to standardise the technique and ultimately we were able to produce ‘Noorie’,” Shah added.
Being the first major animal cloning success at the SKUAST, the team of scientists was attached to Noorie but they are content that it paved the way for further research in the field.
“Noorie’s death was very emotional because this department got recognition and funding because of her. The Noorie project generated the platform for further research like this one (gene editing). Primarily, the objective was to generate the value chain on cloned production,” said Abrar Malik, a PhD student.
Malik was an undergraduate student when Noorie came to life.
“Noorie was produced in 2012, under the leadership of Dr Riyaz. I was pursuing my UG at that time and it was fascinating for me. It pumped me to join Biotechnology,” Malik said.
“Noorie recently passed away at age of 10 which is normal. She had lost her teeth and she was not eating properly. So, it was a kind of natural death,” the research scholar said.
On being asked if cloning can be used to save endangered species like Hangul (Kashmir stag), the experts said, “We haven’t undertaken it yet because for rare species we need a recipient where we can transfer the embryos. For those recipients, we rely on the wildlife department.”
“Species like Hangul are not available with them. Otherwise, we could have tried in that area also but the main focus is livestock species,” they said.