Far out: Scientists have successfully developed glow-in-the-dark pigs using jellyfish DNA

By Travis Gettys
Thursday, January 2, 2014 10:35 EDT
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Fluorescent pigs
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Scientists in China have successfully bred glow-in-the-dark pigs using jellyfish DNA.

Researchers at the South China Agricultural University announced last month that they had successfully engineered 10 piglets that glowed green under a black light.

Pretty cool, right? But why?

The scientists said the technique pioneered by the University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Medicine could help create more cost-effective medicines and therapies to treat patients with certain maladies.

“Patients who suffer from hemophilia, and they 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,” said Dr. Stefan Moisyadi, of the University of Hawaii’s Institute for Biogenesis Research.

The scientists isolated a fluorescent protein in the jellyfish DNA, which they injected into the pig embryos. The pigs are expected to live a normal lifespan.

The researchers said their success rate for breeding the piglets, including six born since August, was quadruple the previous success rate for transferring plasmids carrying the fluorescent protein to embryos.

In a video released by the research team, the piglets initially squeal in fear as the lights are turned off, except for a black light that illuminates their bodies’ green tint.

“(The color is) just a marker to show that we can take a gene that was not originally present in the animal and now exists in it,” Moisyadi said. “The green is only a marker to show that it’s working easily.”

Researchers in Turkey have previously used the technique to breed fluorescent rabbits, and they’re expected to announce similar results soon for sheep, and scientists at the Audubon Center for Research of Endangered Species have cloned glow-in-the-dark wildcats in hopes of saving that species from extinction.

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