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Narrow band LEDs switch animal embryo gender

Posted: 05 May 2016     Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LEDs  broiler industry  horticulture market  narrow band LED 

A U.S.-based agricultural lighting company, ONCE has received a notice of allowance on their patent application for influencing the sex of oviparous embryos using light.

Until now, genetically modifying the organism or injecting it with potentially harmful hormones were the only two ways of influencing embryo gender.

In mammals, gender is determined genetically via sex chromosomes, but in oviparous animals that's not so. Now, sex-linked genes can be switched to male or female during their development. According to the founder and CEO at ONCE, Zdenko Grajcar, the company targets light absorption centres in sex-determining genes to either express them or knock them down. The technology is based on the use of inexpensive narrow band LEDs.

It's easy to see why it might be important to influence gender pre-hatching. The ratio of males to females in the avian population is approximately 51:49. Given the fast growth rate of the male compared to the female, male chickens are desirable for the broiler industry. In the egg-laying segment, only female chickens are desired.

LEDsxanimal embryo

Figure 1: ONCE targets light absorption centres in sex-determining genes of oviparous embryos to either express them or knock them down using narrow band LEDs.

Currently, poultry companies are searching for ways to reduce the unwanted male chicks that are killed, especially since these chicks are rapidly becoming the topic of animal welfare abuses globally.

Researchers at ONCE believe that scenarios similar to avian use are possible for aquaculture and horticulture markets. The company is currently conducting large-scale commercial trials and intends to release its technology later this year.

- Carolyn Mathas

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