Scientists create green-glowing piglets
Scientists in Guangdong Province, Southern China, have created piglets that glow green under a black-light. The glow is caused by a fluorescent protein from jellyfish DNA that was transferred into the embryos within the sow, as a marker to show that the transfer of genetic material had been successful.
The process was part of an experiment to test the success rate of moving genetic material between animals. The technique used, developed at the University of Hawai`i at Mānoa's John A. Burns School of Medicine, has quadrupled the rate at which plasmids (DNA molecules) can be transferred.
The long-term aim of the research goal is to introduce beneficial genes into larger animals as a means of creating less costly and more efficient medicines.
"[For] patients who suffer from hemophilia and need the blood-clotting enzymes in their blood, we can make those enzymes a lot cheaper in animals rather than a factory that will cost millions of dollars to build," says Dr. Stefan Moisyadi, Associate Professor at the Institute for Biogenesis Research (IBR), in a news story on the University of Hawai`i website.
The IBR technique, which reportedly does not impact on the animal's lifespan or quality of life, was used to produce the world’s first "glowing green rabbits" by scientists in Turkey last year. The Turkish scientists are expected to complete similar research using sheep later this year.
View the following video to see a demonstration of the piglets under a black-light.
Source: University of Hawai`i
Please keep comments to less than 150 words. No abusive material or spam will be published.
They're not doing this because there's a need for bacon that's easy to find if the light in your fridge fails!
"The long-term aim of the research goal is to introduce beneficial genes into larger animals as a means of creating less costly and more efficient medicines".
In other words, this IS "... the search for cures to different types of cancer or other diseases".
My job is to work with scientists at academia and commercial biotech companies to introduce new genetic material into cells, tissues and sometimes embryos or whole animals. In fact, I often use introducing the GFP gene (green fluorescent protein) into cells as a proof of concept that I can get other genes to be expressed too. Very similar or even the same as the gene they put into these piglets. Genome editing is what it's know as, and we're at the point where we can do "control c/control v" with genetic material the same way I can do this on my keyboard right now to introduce new letters into my post. I facilitate this through special chemicals and electrical pulses that temporarily make holes in the cells' outer bi-lipid membrane as well as the nuclear membrane.
Is this unnatural? Well, it takes either a virus or my machine/techniques to do this sort of thing. If the article had suggested that this process was completed using a lentivirus to introduce new genetic material, would you be more OK with it since it is completely natural? This technology is used to directly cure cancer and is close to defeating Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. I have worked with researchers who have now CURED lymphoma, leukemia, HER-based breast cancer, etc. The list is a mile long and these therapies and cures would NEVER have been developed without transfection of new genetic material into mammalian (read Human) cells and tissues. Does the word "natural" matter to you? If bacteria transfer genetic material between each other through plasmid transfer, and we're co-opting this same process, then I would argue that what I do is completely natural, regardless of where the genetic material comes from, or where I'm putting it.
I'm not asking you this to be snarky, I'm asking because I'm often confronted with the ETHICs of genome engineering and I'd really like to hear what people, especially the smart ones on this site, have to say about it.
"Unnatural." So are vaccines, plywood, spacecraft, pacemakers, computers, and a whole host of other things that make life better. If it 1) does not hurt the animal, and 2) does help further medical science, you have nothing to complain about unless you're one of those Bible-banging (or Animal Liberation Front manifesto-banging) weirdos who would turn back 35,000 years of human progress so we can all die before we turn 30 due to living on a starvation diet of onions, acorns, and malaria.
I will assume you're not one of those people and just ask you to check your premises on the benefits of "unnatural" research. We do a lot worse to animals for a lot worse reasons, this is not the battlefield to choose with regards to animal research.
We may not be able to avoid all mistakes, but at least we can try.