Researchers in China report they have successfully produce 14 transgenic beef calves with significantly higher than normal levels of healthy Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids using  somatic cell nuclear transfer.

Omega-3 fatty acids are considered beneficial to human health, but their levels in beef are low compared with some other foods such as fatty fish. The researchers note that in most modern diets, omega-6 fatty acids are consumed in adequate amounts, but omega-3 fatty acids are deficient.

The scientists constructed a plasmid containing the codon-optimized gene known as “mfat 1,” derived from Caenorhabditis elegans, a type of non-parasitic nematode. The mfat 1 gene converts omega-6 fatty acids to omega-3. They transferred the gene into the primary fetal fibroblasts from Luxi Yellow cattle, an indigenous breed.

They found that the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the transgenic cattle was 0.95: 1, significantly lower than the ratio of 5.33: 1 in control cattle. The researchers conclude their results demonstrate that the mfat1 gene from C. elegans could be functionally expressed in beef cattle and will decrease the ratio of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids in muscle tissue, which could make beef a good source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in human daily diet.

The research report was recently published in Biotechnology Letters and is available online