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No bones about it: Fish may become easier to eat

By Zhou Huiying in Harbin | | Updated: 2023-03-07 15:11
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An expert from the Heilongjiang Fishery Research Institute conducts research on crucian carp without intermuscular bones. [Photo provided to]

People may not have to pick out tiny fish bones while eating a variety of carp in the future, as researchers from the Heilongjiang Fishery Research Institute recently announced that they had cultivated the world's first crucian carp without intermuscular bones.

Crucian carp is a popular freshwater fish with tender meat and a fresh flavor, but its many tiny bones are easily lodged in people's throats when the fish is eaten, and they're difficult to process in industrial production.

A research team at the institute started a project to tackle the problem in 2009 and identified the key gene, from 1,600 candidate genes, to control the growth of the fish's intermuscular spine.

Biologists knocked out the gene named bmp6 without affecting the fish's growth and reproduction.

A photo compares the bones of a wild crucian carp and a boneless one. [Photo provided to]

"At the beginning of 2022, we released around 20,000 fish fry of the third generation at our test base in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, starting the large-scale breeding," said Kuang Youyi, a researcher on the team. "The fish grew well and are superficially indistinguishable from normal crucian carp. An examination conducted in August showed that the success rate had reached 100 percent."

Boneless fish "can greatly change the global fish diet culture and habits, and have a profound impact on boosting consumption of aquatic products in the future," said Li Shaowu, head of the team. "The genetic improvement of crucian carp without intermuscular bones is an effective way to solve the problem of large quantity but low efficiency of crucian carp production. This will rapidly improve the core competitiveness of our breeding industry and lead a reform in Chinese aquaculture."

The institute is part of the Chinese Academy of Fishery Sciences.

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