Animal welfare campaigners in Britain have been trying to get their paws on a new breed of pet, the chia, to be bred to help fight the spread of chlamydia.
They have been working for years on a project to breed a chia that is 100 per cent sterile, so that the chie is immune to the disease.
Now, scientists from Cambridge University have found the perfect breed.
Read moreChia has long been a staple in Asian cuisines.
The dish has been eaten by millions of people in China, India and Vietnam, where it’s also known as kam-chi or egg noodles.
But the BBC has reported that the Chinese government has been restricting its sale, and even stopped importing it from other parts of the world.
It was only a matter of time before Chia became an international phenomenon, and its popularity has only grown since the Chinese launched a campaign in 2015 to stop cholera from spreading through its domestic poultry.
The campaign succeeded in slowing the spread in a few regions, but it’s not yet known how long it will take to achieve full eradication.
Chia’s popularity has also made it a lucrative pet trade.
“The demand for chia has gone from being niche to being global,” said Sarah McPherson, an international animal health expert at the University of Surrey.
Chi is a type of rice-like crop that’s commonly used to make noodles, and it is often sold in markets, restaurants and supermarkets in China and Vietnam.
There are currently around 15 million Chinese chia farmers, but the number is expected to grow by a million or more by 2030.
According to McPhersons research, Chia has two major advantages over other rice: it has less fat and is more nutritious.
“It’s also low in cholesterol, so it’s very good for people who are on a low cholesterol diet,” she said.
The BBC reports that scientists in the UK have discovered the perfect strain of chia to be genetically modified to contain the gene for an enzyme called MMP-9.
The gene for this enzyme, which converts fats to glucose, is a key factor in how the cells in the human body metabolise fats, which is important for normal human health.
In the future, researchers hope to breed other genes for a more robust enzyme, and then produce the chias for use in the pet food industry.
“We’ve found that the genetic modification of the MMP9 gene is the key to making the Chia Pet,” said McPhestons team member, Professor Alan O’Brien.
But how long will it take to get this perfect breed?
In order to breed this perfect chia breed, scientists have to develop a new strain of bacteria, which can be engineered to be resistant to chlamydial bacteria.
In this way, they will be able to increase their production of MMPs and boost their immune system against the disease, according to Mcpherson.
So far, the only genetic modification scientists have used to increase the immune system has been to make the chitin in the cells more reactive.
“These changes in the cell make them more susceptible to the pathogens,” said O’Connor.
“But the immune response to the bacteria is more potent, so we’re hopeful that we can increase their immune response by making the cells less reactive and more tolerant of infection.”
Scientists have also been working on a way to boost the immune systems of the chai pet, which could be used to boost their ability to protect humans from chlamydomonas virus.
However, it remains to be seen how effective this would be.
“While we are not at a stage where we can breed a Chia with an immunity to the chlamypogen virus, we are hopeful that a Chai with a lower immune response could be more resistant to the virus,” said Macpherson, “We know the immune responses of chai animals are higher than those of dogs and cats, so the ability to make antibodies that will be more effective at protecting people from the virus may be useful.”
This story originally appeared on Business Insider UK.