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Japanese researchers breed genetically modified glowing marmosets

By Julian Worker     May 27, 2009 in Science
Genetically modified monkeys that glow in ultraviolet light and pass the trait on to their young have been created by scientists in Japan.
In a proof of principle experiment, a team at the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Kawasaki, Japan, has added a gene to marmoset embryos that makes them glow green under ultraviolet light. The embryos were then transferred into surrogate females leading to five births. The scientists have written their story in the journal Nature.
All the newborn monkeys carried the green gene and two passed the gene on to their own offspring. In April, a genetically modified male marmoset was born using sperm from one of these two monkeys and two more have been born since. All the monkeys are healthy and do not glow under normal lighting conditions.
The scientists now plan to create families of monkeys that develop neurodegenerative diseases similar to those seen in humans, which could lead to a deeper understanding of the development of diseases such as Parkinson's and Motor Neurone Disease. There will also be an ethical backlash because these plans will introduce harmful genes into the primate population. Animal rights groups will also be dismayed as this research will certainly lead to a rise in the number of primates used in research labs.
Major hurdles await - scientists still need to prove that the technology used for creating the glowing marmosets can recreate human diseases in those same marmosets and that the primates are more effective models than other animals such as mice. Also, a European directive on the use of animals in research may block the use of primates in basic research.
This Japanese experiment also raises the possibility of genetically modifying human beings to investigate diseases even though such work is outlawed in most countries.
More about Monkeys, Marmosets, Glowing, Genetic, Ultra violet light