Just in time for Christmas, a team of scientists in China were able to create ten little piglets that glow green under black fluorescent lights, thanks to a technique developed by the University of Hawaii at Manoa School of Medicine.
A group of scientists from South China Agricultural University were able to do this by injecting fluorescent protein from jellyfish DNA into pig embryos, thus creating the green-glowing pigs.
According to the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, which the Huffington Post cites, the technique used is the same used to engineer “glowing green rabbits” in Turkey earlier this year:
The green color simply indicates that the fluorescent genetic material injected into the pig embryos has been incorporated into the animal’s natural make-up. “It’s just a marker to show that we can take a gene that was not originally present in the animal and now exists in it,” explains Dr. Stefan Moisyadi, a veteran bioscientist with the IBR.
Dr. Moisyadi said the animals are not affected by the fluorescent protein and will have the same life span as other pigs. “The green is only a marker to show that it’s working easily,” he said.
As excellent as it might be to enable bacon-enthusiasts to more easily locate their quarry in the dark, the exercise serves a larger experimental purpose:
The ultimate goal is to introduce beneficial genes into larger animals to create less costly and more efficient medicines. “[For] patients who suffer from hemophilia and they need the blood-clotting enzymes in their blood, we can make those enzymes a lot cheaper in animals rather than a factory that will cost millions of dollars to build,” Dr. Moisyadi said.
When discussing cases of bioluminescence, it might be helpful to note that this type of photo-luminescence is fluorescence (think “black light”). When particles fluoresce, they immediately emit absorbed light, instead of than storing and emitting it over time as with phosphorescence (think “glow-in-the-dark shirt”).
Researchers hope to use similar techniques to predictably produce therapeutic enzymes for patients. In the meantime, we can enjoy the cool glow of fluorescent light, in a pig’s eye.