Glow-in-the-dark pigs and other animals are more than just novelties — they prove that DNA transplants are possible, and one day might lead to DNA transplants from animals to people who have genetic diseases. The work of the researchers who create glow-in-the-dark pigs today may lead to the cheaper, more efficient medicines of tomorrow, like clotting enzymes for people who suffer from hemophilia.
How did Chinese scientists create glow-in-the-dark pigs?
A team of scientists from South China Agricultural University in Guangdong Province created a litter of 10 transgenic glow-in-the-dark pigs basically the same way that a research team in Turkey managed to create glow-in-the-dark rabbits — through injecting them with jellyfish DNA. The Turkish team is now attempting to engineer glow-in-the-dark sheep.
Through a technique that the University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Medicine developed, the Chinese scientists injected pig embryos with fluorescent jellyfish DNA. The jellyfish DNA causes the litter of pigs to give off a green glow when the animals are placed under black fluorescent lights or UVA lights. The study that resulted will be published soon in the Biology of Reproduction Journal.
While glow-in-the-dark animals are kind of cool to look at, the true goal behind creating animals that glow is to show that foreign genetic material from one animal can be incorporated into an entirely different animal.
The process involves injecting the cytoplasm of the embryos with plasmids that carry the jellyfish gene responsible for their fluorescent green glow. The injected jellyfish DNA is then actively integrated into the genetic makeup of the host animals, This method demonstrates that DNA transplants from one animal to another are possible.
Showing and proving that foreign DNA transplants from the jellyfish can be incorporated into rabbits, pigs, and sheep is just a way to mark that “we can take a gene that was not originally present in the animal and now exists in it,” according to Dr. Stefan Moisyadi, from the University of Hawaii.
According to Dr. Moisyadi, it is cheaper to make blood-clotting enzymes in animals when that’s compared to making them in “a factory that will cost millions of dollars to build.”
The success of the scientists from Hawaii, Turkey, and China at engineering glow-in-the-dark animals will eventually lead to beneficial genes being introduced into large animals which will result in the creation of more efficient and less expensive medicines for humans.
Glow-in-the-dark rabbits, pigs, and sheep prove that DNA transplants from one species of animal to another are not only possible, but have been done in practice. The knowledge scientists are gaining from that research will one day in the near future lead to medicines to treat genetic diseases that are more efficient and less expensive than the ones which are currently available.
Written by: Douglas Cobb