Scientists in Uruguay modified the genes of sheep using the fluorescent protein from an Aequarea jelly fish, causing the sheep to glow-in-the-dark. The sheep were born last October at the Animal Reproduction Institute of Uruguay. The sheep glow when they are exposed to certain ultraviolet light, emitting a glowing green color. Aside from glowing in the dark, Uruguay scientists assures everyone that these sheep are developing normally.
Alejo Menchaca, the leader of the research team, stated that the genetically modified sheep are roaming about the fields like any normal sheep. He states that, in this case, the team did not modify the sheeps with the fluorescent protein because of medical interests, but because they wanted to “fine-tune the technique”. They also used the green protein because the color is “easily identifiable in the sheep’s tissue.”
While these sheep may be the first glow-in-the-dark sheep to exist, they’re not the first living creatures that scientists have genetically modified. Scientists have also genetically modified zebrafish using the same green fluorescent protein from the Aequorea jelly fish to make them glow-in-the-dark. These zebrafish were them renamed “GloFish”, and have since been genetically modified using various other proteins, such as red, orange-yelow, blue, and purple fluorescent proteins.
Scienctists have continued this glow-in-the-dark trend with a variety of other living creatures, including cats, dogs, pigs, scorpions, worms, monkeys, mice, and more. However, most of these scientists aren’t just modifying these animals for fun. They believe that research on these genetically modified animals can help scientists better understand diseases and how diseases develop, not just for animals, but for humans as well. Scientists from the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh told The Guardian that their research with glow-in-the-dark cats would help them study HIV/Aids. The scientists stated,
“Cats are susceptible to feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), a close relative of HIV, the cause of Aids. The application of the new technology suggested in this paper (Antiviral restriction factor transgenesis in the domestic cat) is to develop the use of genetically-modified cats for the study of FIV, providing valuable information for the study of Aids.”
[via Nature World News]