Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cloned Beagles: Glowing Now, Helping Science Later

From the Associated Press: SKorean experts claim to have cloned glowing dogs
South Korean scientists say they have engineered four beagles that glow red using cloning techniques that could help develop cures for human diseases. The four dogs, all named "Ruppy" — a combination of the words "ruby" and "puppy" — look like typical beagles by daylight.
But they glow red under ultraviolet light, and the dogs' nails and abdomens, which have thin skins, look red even to the naked eye.
Seoul National University professor Lee Byeong-chun, head of the research team, called them the world's first transgenic dogs carrying fluorescent genes, an achievement that goes beyond just the glowing novelty.
"What's significant in this work is not the dogs expressing red colors but that we planted genes into them," Lee told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Now if they could only do this to reindeer. And get the gene to express itself mainly in the nose area.

OK, but seriously: it really is crucial to see that this achievement is not about making puppies (or any other animals) that glow in the dark. The fact that the dogs glow is just a convenient way to determine that the inserted gene (which happens to be a gene for flourescence in this case) is showing up everywhere in the dog's body, which is what you would normally want when you're doing genetic engineering. So, the technique works. Next step (as the scientists in the story note) is to insert a more useful gene.

p.s. The photo accompanying the AP story is great evidence of the limits of genetics. Notice the dogs are not identical in appearance. (Look at the vertical white stripes on their respective foreheads.)


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