Friday, January 13, 2006

Man as Imbecile #1: Taiwan breeds green-glowing pigs

Is this scientific progress? Is it worth multi-million dollar research grants? Hmmm - first fluorescent coloured fish and now glow-in-the-dark pigs. I sure feel safe in the hands of scientists... I can almost predict a kid's cartoon coming out of this one - something like 'Teenage Mutant Glowing Piglets'. I wonder, if they've got jellyfish DNA in them, do they get the urge to take a swim every now and then? C.

Scientists in Taiwan say they have bred three pigs that "glow in the dark".

By Chris Hogg

BBC News, Hong Kong

They claim that while other researchers have bred partly fluorescent pigs, theirs are the only pigs in the world which are green through and through.
The pigs are transgenic, created by adding genetic material from jellyfish into a normal pig embryo. The researchers hope the pigs will boost the island's stem cell research, as well as helping with the study of human disease. The scientists, from National Taiwan University's Department of Animal Science and Technology, say that although the pigs glow, they are otherwise no different from any others. Taiwan is not claiming a world first. Others have bred partially fluorescent pigs before; but the researchers insist the three pigs they have produced are better. They are the only ones that are green from the inside out. Even their heart and internal organs are green, the researchers say.

To create them, DNA from jellyfish was added to about 265 pig embryos which were implanted in eight different sows.

Four of the female pigs became pregnant and three male piglets were born three months ago.

Green generation

In daylight, the researchers say the pigs' eyes, teeth and trotters look green. Their skin has a greenish tinge.

In the dark, shine a blue light on them and they glow torch-light bright.

The scientists will use the transgenic pigs to study human disease. Because the pig's genetic material is green, it is easy to spot.

So if, for instance, some of its stem cells are injected into another animal, scientists can track how they develop without the need for a biopsy or invasive test.

But creating them has not been easy. Many of the altered embryos failed to develop.

The researchers say they hope the new, green pigs will mate with ordinary female pigs to create a new generation - much greater numbers of transgenic pigs for use in research.

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