Glow in the Dark Pets
While you may think of glow in the dark pets as being something out of a science fiction movie or Stephen King novel genetic specialists are making it a reality today.
Nobel Prize in Chemistry was given to three scientists who had been working with jellyfish. In their research they had discovered the fluorescent gene which is named Enhanced Green Fluorescence Protein, and began using it to see how things work inside cells. Other scientists and researchers have taken the technology and are currently doing research in many areas with the glowing gene.
The gene has been used as a genetic marker, helping researchers understand more about how cells work. But it has also been getting interest from the commercial segment because of the potential demand for designer glow in the dark pets.
Glow in the Dark FIsh
Glow In the Dark Fish
Imagine coming home from a long day at work, grabbing a cup of tea, and sitting on the couch. With one finger you remotely switch off one set of lights and switch on a black light. Instantly in the darkness the fish in your fish tank, still swimming languidly, are now glowing green.
A company in Taiwan retails the glowing fish for about 17.00 USD. Demand is growing in the United States amongst aquarium owners. In Europe, however the demand is much lower, due in part to the resistance to genetic modification.
The way the fish are developed is to take some of the glowing gene and attach it to DNA in embryonic fish. This makes various organs, genes, and cells easier to find in a research situation. The fish can be made to glow green or red by the type of genetic protein used. The fish are also sterilized so that if one gets into a natural environment it will not be able to reproduce the glowing gene in other fish and compromise a species.
Glow in the Dark Cats
Glow in the dark pets don’t stop at fish. It was only a matter of time until the technology spread to other animals. In New Orleans scientists have produced a genetically modified cat that will glow in the dark as well. Aptly named Mr. Green Genes, a parody on the character from Captain Kangaroo television show, the cat’s epithelial cells glow green. These are the cells that make up skin, tongue, and other smooth tissue areas.
Although the orange tabby cat looks normal in daylight, when put under an ultraviolet light his gums, eyes, ears, and paw pads glow bright lime green. Scientists plan on using the knowledge that they are acquiring to find out more information on cystic fibrosis and to develop a gene therapy.
The process begins with skin cells from an animal. The cells’ genetic material is stored in liquid nitrogen until it is needed. When the cloning is to be done eggs are collected from a female cat and the DNA is removed and replaced with the stored genetic material. In order to produce the glowing cat the genetic material also contained the fluorescent gene. The egg is then inserted in the surrogate mother and the embryo develops and is born normally.
Researchers are still not sure whether the descendants of the glowing cats will also carry the gene.
The glow in the dark cats have also been produced in Korea where some glow red rather than green.
Other Glow in the Dark Pets
It isn’t just cats and fish that are being developed with glow in the dark capabilities. Other animals that are being altered to glow in the dark are:
Bioluminescence: Natural Glow
While these animals are being genetically altered to glow in the dark there are animals that glow naturally. This ability to glow in the dark is called bioluminescence. Some are very common and some are not. Here is a list of a few:
*Cookie Cutter Shark
*Some types of squid
*Certain types of jellyfish
Good Science, Bad Karma?
Some people hail these cloning experiments are scientific breakthroughs and others are dismayed. While there are many scientific possibilities for the cloned cells there are just as many concerns.
What happens if a glow in the dark rabbit gets loose and breeds with other “normal” rabbits? Nocturnal animals would have a heyday feasting on easy prey. While scientists say that this would not happen the fact is that genetically modified material has all ready gotten loose in the environment and caused problems. The problems between Canadian farmers and Monsanto are a good example of this.
Whether you think it is a good idea or a bad one it is, at the very least, interesting. Whether glow in the dark animals become the next popular, designer pet remains to be seen.