Glow In The Dark Bunnies
August 13, 2013

Could Glow In The Dark Bunnies Lead To Better Drugs?

[ Watch The Video: International Team Creates Glowing Green Bunnies ]

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

What do you get when you cross jelly fish DNA with a cuddly bunny? If researchers from universities in Hawaii and Turkey have anything to say about it, the combination could result in cheaper, more effective drugs for genetic diseases.

Scientists have cloned a litter of rabbits which have been given a gene from a glowing jellyfish, effectively creating two glow-in-the-dark bunnies. Under normal light the rabbits appear just as normal and healthy as their siblings, but in a dark room the animals shine a bright fluorescent green.

The scientists say the transgenic bunnies aren’t harmed at all by the foreign DNA and have only been created as a proof of concept. That 25 percent of the cloned rabbits glow tells the scientists they successfully incorporated another animal’s DNA into their genome and, if it can be done here, it may be possible in humans as well. They hope that this approach might eventually be used in humans so people with genetic diseases could benefit from receiving a transplant of healthy DNA.

Associate professor Stefan Moisyadi with the University of Hawaii told the Independent the cloned bunnies shine as brightly as LED lights when the room goes dark.

"And on top of it, their fur is beginning to grow and the greenness is shining right through their fur. It’s so intense,” he said.

These tiny rabbits were born just last week in the lab at the University of Istanbul after the scientists injected a fluorescent protein from jelly fish DNA into the mother rabbit’s embryo. Once these embryos were genetically altered, they were given back to the mother and allowed to gestate.

Out of a litter of eight rabbits, two of them were born with the glowing gene. In a statement, Moisyadi said he was quite pleased with the results, noting their method achieves a higher success rate than previously seen when cloning rabbits.

Now that this gene has been introduced to the rabbits, the scientists hope to find the same jellyfish protein in the milk of the female glowing rabbits. This, says the team, could lead to better, more efficient ways to produce 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 with barrier reactives rather than a factory that will cost billions of dollars to build,” said Moisyadi.

Moisyadi and University of Hawaii professor emeritus Ryuzo Yanagimachi began this work in 2011 when they traveled to Turkey to discuss a collaboration with the University of Istanbul and Marmara University. Yanagimachi, already a renowned geneticist, has also invented a technique which inserts sperm directly into an egg, a technique that is now used in many fertility clinics. He’s also been able to use this same method to create transgenic mice in previous studies.

Though the glow-in-the-dark bunnies have been developed in a lab, other animals with eye-popping colors have been spotted in the wild. For instance, just months ago researchers discovered hot pink slugs in the sub-alpine rocks of Australia. These animals are reportedly "as bright pink as you can imagine" and can cover the ground on a good morning.