Are super-sized dogs the next big thing for hunting? Scientists with a research institute in China say they have successfully used “gene editing” to create two beagles with twice the muscle mass of a regular dog, and plans are already being made to increase their size, intelligence, and even eliminate diseases.
According to the MIT Technology Review, researchers accomplished this by deleting problematic genes. In the case of the beagles, scientists with the Guangzhou General Pharmaceutical Research Institute eliminated a gene called myostatin, which limited the dogs’ muscle growth.
“[The beagles have] more muscles and are expected to have stronger running ability, which is good for hunting, police, [and military] applications,” said Liangxue Lai, one of the lead researchers on the study.
The two beagles, named Tiangou and Hercules, are now 15 months old and appear to be in good health. They are extraordinarily muscular for their age and are only expected to get stronger as they grow into adulthood. With greater muscle mass, scientists say the dogs will be able to run faster, be more efficient—and intimidating—guard dogs, and generally more athletic.
To a lesser extent, gene editing to remove myostatin already existed in canines. Due to selective breeding, a mutation has occurred in whippets that decreased production of myostatin, leading to heavily muscled dogs that trainers call bully whippets. The famous of these dogs is a female bully whippet from British Columbia called Wendy, who carried two mutated copies of the myostatin gene and weighed about twice as much as a standard whippet.