Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Glowing Marmosets

A team of Japanese researchers have unveiled genetically modified marmosets that glow green under UV light and pass the trait on to their offspring.

“Erika Sasaki of the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Japan, and her colleagues, have introduced a gene into marmoset embryos that allows them to build green fluorescent protein (GFP) in their tissues. The protein is so-called because it glows green in a process known as fluorescence. GFP was originally isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, which glows green when exposed to blue light. The protein has become a standard in biology and genetic engineering, and its discovery even warranted a Nobel prize.

From 91 embryos, a total of five GFP-enabled transgenic marmosets were born, including twins Kei and Kou ("keikou" is Japanese for "fluorescence").”

“Though primates that make a glowing protein have been created before, these are the first to keep the change in their bloodlines. Future modifications could lead to treatments for a range of diseases.”

Scientists are hoping that because primates are more similar to humans than mice, they will be able to provide a better model of disease in humans. Mice are not useful for studying some human diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. However, not everyone is excited about the breakthrough.

“Jarrod Bailey, science consultant to the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), says he is "disappointed" both ethically and scientifically with the results.
"This sort of research on animals as sentient as monkeys and apes does not have public support," he told BBC News. Furthermore, he thinks the underlying science is flawed. Animal researchers, he said, "have failed in research to find treatments for Aids, for hepatitis, for malaria, for strokes. Many treatments for strokes work in monkeys but don't work in humans."
"Monkeys do not predict human response and do not tell us about human disease," he added.”

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