Biology Department

Advanced Higher Biology trip to Easter Bush Science Outreach Centre

In early November, the Advanced Higher Biology cohort attended a day of training and took part in a real-life scientific research scenario at the University of Edinburgh. Learners were introduced to the current, cutting-edge research of Dr Christine Tait-Burkard and her team who have used genome-editing technology to engineer pigs that are genetically resistant to an infectious disease called porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS). The workshop also revealed how researchers at Roslin are using new molecular biology techniques to genotype engineered pigs and showcased the use of CRISPR gene editing, which is a method by which the genomes of living organisms may be edited.

CRISPR-Cas technology has been proposed as a treatment for multiple human diseases, especially those with a genetic cause. Its ability to modify specific DNA sequences makes it a tool with potential to fix disease-causing mutations. Early research in animal models suggest that therapies based on CRISPR technology have potential to treat a wide range of diseases, including cancer, beta-thalassemia, sickle cell disease, haemophilia, cystic fibrosis, Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s, and heart disease.

The specific objectives were to:

  • To understand how scientific research is used to solve global animal health and welfare problems
  • To develop scientific thinking and critical analysis skills
  • To understand how gene editing works and can be used in the lab
  • To understand that we can identify genotypes using DNA profiling
  • To reveal the world of work in scientific research
  • Activities included; preparation of DNA for fragment analysis:
  • DNA electrophoresis using agarose gels
  • Analysis and interpretation of results
  • Ethical discussion about use of genome edited animals in farming

Thank you to Edinburgh University for allowing Heriot’s to attend and take part in the research.