From reproductive technologies to genome editing in small ruminants: an embryo’s journey
The beginning of this century has witnessed great advances in the understanding of ovarian physiology and embryo development, in the improvement of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), and in the arrival of the revolutionary genome editing technology through zygote manipulation. Particularly in sheep and goats, the current knowledge on follicular dynamics enables the design of novel strategies for ovarian control, enhancing artificial insemination and embryo production programs applied to genetic improvement. In vitro embryo production (IVEP) has evolved due to a better understanding of the processes that occur during oocyte maturation, fertilization and early embryo development. Moreover, interesting advances have been achieved in embryo and oocyte cryopreservation, thereby reducing the gap between the bench and on-farm application of IVEP technology. Nevertheless, the major breakthrough of this century has been the arrival of the CRISPR/Cas system for genome editing. By joining diverse disciplines such as molecular biology, genetic engineering and reproductive technologies, CRISPR allows the generation of knock-out and knock-in animals in a novel way never achieved before. The innumerable applications of this disruptive biotechnology are challenging the imagination of those who intend to build the animals of the future.
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