Experts at the Kunming Institute of Zoology in Yunnan province say they have found a way to produce genetically modified tree shrews, which could be used to find solutions to human health problems.
Chinese scientists have succeeded in breeding the first transgenic tree shrew, by using spermatogonial stem cells.
The findings were published in scientific journal Cell Research earlier this month, said Li Chaohui with the Kunming Institute of Zoology, on Wednesday.
"Tree shrews have a close relationship to primates and have many advantages over rodents in biomedical research," said Li. "They have a small body size, short reproductive cycle and are a low cost to breed. However, the lack of gene manipulation methods has hindered the wider use of the tree shrew in laboratories."
The development of a culture system to expand tree shrew spermatogonial stem cells in combination with a gene editing approach paves the way for precise genome manipulation using the tree shrew, he said.
Three teams with the Kunming Institute of Zoology under the Chinese Academy of Sciences spent more than two years on the research.
"We transfected tree shrew spermatogonial stem cells with enhanced green fluorescent protein-expressing lentiviral vectors," Li said.
After transplantation into a sterilized adult male tree shrew's testes, the tagged stem cells were able to restore sperma and successfully generate transgenic offspring.