Transgenic animals are pharmacies, supplying nutrients that cannot be produced by the human body. This is the suggestion of a study published in Nature Biotechnology carried out by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
Because of the similarities in physiology between pigs and humans, the researchers want to use the animals as a model to see what happens to heart health when omega-3 levels in the body are increased. In the past a normal diet was enough to supply the body with the necessary fatty acids; today the cloned pigs are heralded as a way of rebalancing the modern diet, lacking in essential nutrients as a result of drastic changes in breeding and agriculture of the last century.
By transferring the gene fat-1 into the pig’s immature foetal cells, scientists created animals that produce their own omega-3 fatty acids by converting the more abundant and less beneficial omega-6. Omega-3 acids are thought to be necessary for the body’s cardiovascular, reproductive and immune system activities. Until now the main dietary sources for them were oily fish, such as salmon and tuna (often containing risky levels of mercury) and flaxseed oil.
‘Instead of using up energy and money for research that goes against nature and is often fruitless, we should encourage breeding ad agriculture methods that respect the environment and the consumer,’ commented Paolo di Croce of Slow Food International. ‘Omega 3 is present in fish, especially in sardines, anchovies and the like, so we should encourage sustainable fishing that doesn’t destroy the sea floor. Moreover, we must try to decrease pollution. These are ways of getting more omega-3. A healthy and responsible diet, finally, is a valid remedy for numerous illnesses.’