Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Green Ham and Eggs

While I’m on the subject of things that glow – three glowing piglets were born in December 2006. This was accomplished by injecting pig embryos with fluorescent green protein taken from a jellyfish. One of these little piggies went on to have babies and two of her 11 offspring glow green from their snouts, trotters, and tongues under ultraviolet light.

According to Liu Zhonghua, a professor overseeing the breeding program at Northwestern Agricultural University, the “green” births prove that transgenic pigs are fertile and able to pass their engineered traits on to their offspring. The University reported that this development could lead to the future breeding of pigs for human transplant organs.

“Continued development of this technology can be applied to the production of special pigs for the production of human organs for transplant,” Liu said in a news release posted on the university’s web site.

Robin Lovell-Badge, a genetics expert at Britain’s National Institute for Medical Research, said the technology “to genetically manipulate pigs in this way would be very valuable.” While Lovell-Badge had not seen the research from China’s cloned pigs and could not comment on its credibility; he did say, that organs from genetically altered pigs could potentially solve some of the problems of rejected organs in transplant operations.

He said the presence of the green protein would act as a marker and allow genetically modified cells to be tracked if they were transplanted into a human. The fact that the pig’s offspring also appear to have the green genes would indicate that the genetic modification had successfully penetrated every cell, Lovell-Badge added.

However, he went on to say that much more research and further trials — both in animals and in humans — would be necessary before the benefits of the technology could be seen.

Tokyo’s Meiji University last year successfully cloned a transgenic pig that carries the genes for human diabetes, while South Korean scientists cloned cats that glow red when exposed to ultraviolet rays.

No comments: