Researchers from the universities of Istanbul and Hawaii hope the technique can lead to new ways to produce medicines.
As part of an effort to improve treatments for life-threatening illnesses, a team of scientists have created rabbits that glow in the dark.
Their efforts produced two rabbits out of a litter of eight that went from being a normal, fluffy white to glowing green in the dark. The rabbits were born at the University of Istanbul as part of a collaboration between scientists from universities in Turkey and Hawaii.
The rabbits glow to show that a genetic manipulation technique can work efficiently, though the specific color is more cosmetic than scientific. "The green is not important at all – it's just a marker to show the experiment can be done successfully," said University of Hawaii associate professor Stefan Moisyadi.
To produce the glowing effect, researchers injected jellyfish DNA into a mother rabbit's embryos. Those altered embryos were then inserted back into the mother. Similar experiments have resulted in glowing cockroaches and cats.
Eventually, the researchers hope the technique can lead to new ways to produce medicines, Moisyadi said.
"The final goal is to develop animals that act as barrier reactives to produce beneficial molecules in their milk that can be cheaply extracted, especially in countries that can not afford big pharma plants that make drugs, that usually cost $1bn to build, and be able to produce their own protein-based medication in animals," Moisyadi said.
The rabbits are expected to have the same life span as their non-glowing counterparts, but Moisyadi said he understands people can object to this kind of experimentation involving live animals.
"To the people against, I say: think about, what are the benefits and what are the injuries?" Moisyadi said. "And if the benefits outweigh the injuries, let's go with the benefits."
Moisyadi, a native of Turkey who is now with the University of Hawaii, started developing the project in 2006, and researchers are now waiting to see if pregnant sheep produce similar results.