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Glow in the Dark Pets

Updated on February 1, 2013
Marye Audet profile image

Marye Audet-White is an internationally known food writer, food editor for Texas Living, cookbook author, and food blogger.

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.

The cat's skin cells glow under a blacklight.
The cat's skin cells glow under a blacklight.

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:

  • Pigs
  • Rabbits
  • Monkeys
  • Mice
  • Rats
  • Insects

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:

*Firefly

*Emperor Scorpion

*Cookie Cutter Shark

*Angler Fish

*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.

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    • profile image

      clarabett 

      5 years ago

      I want one

    • jamiesweeney profile image

      jamiesweeney 

      6 years ago from Philadelphia, PA

      Very interesting hub. Great to know about pets glowing in the dark.

    • profile image

      smaquois 

      7 years ago

      as for the bioluminescence trait getting passed to wild rabbits, cats, etc i don't think it would cause them to be easier targets as i don't imagine there are a lot of ultraviolet lamps in the forest.

    • profile image

      David 

      7 years ago

      I'd love to have a glowing cat, if they're concerned about interbreeding they can easily make the animals sterile since they're already altering the genes

    • Cashbackshopper profile image

      Cashbackshopper 

      7 years ago

      Interesting but I mostly get scared of my Cat in night.

    • melodyandes profile image

      melodyandes 

      7 years ago

      This is interesting hub.

    • schoolmarm profile image

      schoolmarm 

      7 years ago from Florida

      Very interesting. I think that it would be scary if my pets eyes glowed in the dark.

    • profile image

      GMO pets 

      7 years ago

      Not that I want any but just out of curiosity how much do the cats cost

    • profile image

      Ellise H 

      9 years ago

      thank you for the good info.

    • Eternal Evolution profile image

      Eternal Evolution 

      9 years ago from kentucky

      Interesting subject, you presented your information well.

    • rockinjoe profile image

      Joseph Addams 

      9 years ago from Standing right behind you!

      What will they think of next. Maybe a glow in the dark spouse?

      Interesting topic. Thanks for the hub!

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