Researchers at the University of Edinburgh used the gene editing approach CRISPR to transfer beneficial traits – like climate-tolerant feathers or disease resistance – between chicken breeds. The approach could be used to improve productivity and welfare in poultry operations and could safeguard the genes of rare chicken breeds. “The poultry industry is really interested in selective breeding and identifying useful genetic variants that are in their population. The researchers demonstrated the effectiveness of the technique by genetically modifying the signature white plumage of the White Leghorn breed into black and introducing curly feathers – typically thought to help West African breeds adapt to hot climates – into the British Light Sussex breed. The approach, called Sire Dam Surrogate mating, could be used to ensure that a desired gene is passed down from one generation to another. One of the biggest potential benefits of this new approach is that it offers a high-tech way for the poultry industry to develop a low-tech solution, especially given the ethical issues surrounding gene editing.