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Animal genomic engineering

Animal genomic engineering

Our group develops and applies gene editing tools in farm animals. The main research focus is on developmental biology, particularly on the study of conceptus elongation, aiming to improve fertility and to understand failures in embryo development in farm animals and humans.

Grupo de investigación dependiente del

​Animal Reproduction Department

Our group has been pioneer in applying gene editing tools (CRISPR) in farm animals in Spain. We use these tools to generate genetically modified embryos and animals in livestock species.

The purpose of such genetic modifications is the evaluation of the function of specific genes in diverse biological processes, mainly focussing on reproduction and developmental biology, but also in other areas by collaborations with other national and international research groups.

The knowledge generated by these models aims to understand the root causes of infertility and developmental disorders, both in farm animals and humans, in order to develop diverse strategies (reproductive management, pharmacological or nutritional) to avoid them. In this sense, the benefit for society of our activities impacts upon the livestock and biomedical sectors.

Our research is funded by regional (Madrid Region Government), national (Plan Estatal de Investigación) and international (Starting Grant, ERC) funds.


Our research lines are the following

Conceptus elongation in ungulates

Conceptus elongation is a developmental process occurring in embryos from ungulates (cows, sheep, goats and pigs, among others).

Failures in this process are the main cause of embryonic loss and, thereby, of infertility in these species, causing great economic losses in the livestock industry.

Gastrulation takes place during this process developing a flat embryonic disc very similar to that of humans, so ungulates constitute a closer model to humans than mice. Diverse congenital disorders such as spina bifida are caused by gastrulation failures.

Understanding the processes involved in elongation/gastrulation is required to avoid embryonic losses and developmental disorders.

We account on European funds (ERC, ) to study this process by gene editing and in vitro approaches.

We use CRISPR technology to ablate genes in bovine embryos in order to understand their function on conceptus elongation.

We also perform metabolomics and proteomics analyses in the uterine fluid where embryos develop to understand their metabolic and signalling requirements.

We have developed an in vitro system that allows bovine and ovine embryo development beyond the blastocyst stage, an unprecedented advance in any livestock species (Ramos-Ibeas et al. Reproduction 2020).

Study of reproductive processes in livestock species by CRISPR technology

Gene ablation (KO) allows to unequivocally elucidate the function of a given gene in a biological process.

The laboratory mouse has been the most employed mammalian model for that purpose, as it was the only species where KO animals could be easily generated. Nevertheless, mice are not a valid model to study some particular processes in livestock species or humans.

Using CRISPR technology we can now generate KO animals and other genetically modified models (KI) in other mammalian species.

We generated the first gene edited livestock animals in Spain (KO rabbits for the gene ZP4) uncovering the role of the only protein of the zona pellucida (ZP4) whose function remained unclear, as it was absent in mice.

ZP4 plays an essential structural role: without ZP4, the zona pellucida fails to protect the embryo, that dies before implantation (Lamas-Toranzo et al. eLife 2019).

We also generate KO murine models when mice are a suitable model to study a particular process. For instance, we have generated KO mice for Tmem95, uncovering the essential role of this protein in fertilization.

TMEM95-null sperm are unable to penetrate into the oocyte, becoming the third sperm protein known to be essential for fertilization (Lamas-Toranzo et al. eLife 2020).

We keep generating KO models to study other reproductive processes or collaborating with other groups working in other fields. We account on funds from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Universities (AGL2017-84908-R).

Development of CRISPR technology for gene editing in livestock species

The above-mentioned applications would not have been achievable without the optimized protocols for gene edition by CRISPR in livestock species developed under previous projects (AGL2014-58739-R and RYC-2012-20193).

We have developed protocols to boost the efficiency of KO (Lamas-Toranzo et al. Sci Rep 2019) and KI (Lamas-Toranzo et al. Mol Reprod Dev 2020) generation.

We are authorized by the Spanish National Biosafety Agency to generate genetically modify mice, rabbits, goats and sheep in our facilities.

Molecular markers of oocyte competence

We are evaluating the predictive value of diverse parameters in cumulus cells on the developmental potential of the oocyte, aiming to improve fertility rates following Assisted Reproduction Techniques in humans and animals. This research is funded by an Industrial PhD project from Madrid Region government (IND2017/BIO-7748).

We are authorized by the Spanish National Biosafety Agency to generate genetically modified mice, rabbits, goats and sheep in our facilities.

Offspring sex control in livestock species

Our group has a long publication and technology transfer record on the use of sex sorted semen and embryo sexing in cattle.


Animal genomic engineering Members

Coordinador de Grupo

  • Álvaro Martínez Moro (2023)
    Parámetros moleculares de competencia ovocitaria en las células del cúmulo humanas y bovinas
    Dirección: Pablo Bermejo Álvarez | UCM - Facultad de Veterinaria
  • Ismael Lamas Toranzo (2020)
    Desarrollo y aplicación de la tecnología CRISPR para el estudio de procesos reproductivos en mamíferos
    Dirección: Pablo Bermejo Álvarez | UCM - Facultad de Veterinaria

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