Every once in a while science comes up with something so amazing, so incredible, that the universe seems filled with wonder and possibilities.
Then there are the days that scientists create glow-in-the-dark pigs.
Yes, a team of scientists from South China Agricultural University has created a litter of glowing piglets, which they recently unveiled to the world. The magical feat was accomplished by injecting the pig embryos with DNA from glowing jellyfish. The resulting piglets — which are actually pretty cute — glow green when placed under black fluorescent lights.
You can see the pig's cute glowing snouts and feet in this Chinese-language video:
(If you hear the pigs squeal in the video, don't worry. They're just afraid of the dark.)
So what's the goal of this illuminating research? Bacon you can eat in the dark? Pet pigs that you can walk at night without a flashlight? Real-life green eggs and ham?
Nope, this isn't for fun or food. There's actually a legitimate and very exciting scientific goal for this DNA splicing. By introducing genes from one animal into another, scientists can create medicines inside the animals. This technique that would be especially useful in animals that grow as quickly and as large as pigs. For example, blood-clotting enzymes to treat hemophilia could be generated much more cheaply in animals than in expensive factories, according to University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Medicine bioscientist Dr. Stefan Moisyadi, who told the Huffington Post that right now the green glow is just an indication that the gene splicing technique worked. The Chinese scientists used techniques developed at the University of Hawaii for their glowing pigs, and Moisyadi worked with the Chinese team in this latest research.
This isn't the first such experiment —glow-in-the-dark rabbits were created last year – but the success rate is notable. Previous experiments where new genes were implanted into embryos had about a 2% success rate. This time the Chinese scientists injected jellyfish DNA into 25 embryos and got 10 piglets that glowed – a 40% success rate. Moisyadi told the Los Angeles Times that previous attempts would just "throw the DNA in the embryo and hope that it would take," but the new work employed a more active approach.
What's next? Moisyadi tells the Times that they hope to implant specific genes that would allow pigs or other animals to excrete medically useful proteins in their milk, which could then be used to create life-saving medicines. He did not say if he expects the medicines to glow in the dark.
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