Sunday, 29 April 2012

Glowing Discoveries for Pets of the Future

Glowing Discoveries for Pets of the Future

Megan Danslow

Imagine going to the pet shop and being able to design the ‘perfect pet’; perhaps it’s a cat without allergens or maybe… it’s a glow-in-the-dark fish!

A recent article published by ‘The New York Times Company’ suggests that these ‘dream pets’ are not so far from existence. Since the 1970’s, scientists have been working with, and attempting, to manipulate organisms and their genetic components in order to create practical and useful products [7]. Biotechnologies, including genetic engineering, will forever continue to form the foundation of future generations of discoveries and medical advances [6].

"There will be no need for aquarium lights - fluorescent fish will provide their own illumination” [2]

In 2003, researchers from the National University of Singapore attempted to make the organs of zebra fish easier to see and identify for studying purposes [1]. The result of their attempts has been described as “a miracle of science” [1]. Through recombinant DNA technology, a process in which DNA molecules are formed from the combination of segments of DNA from two different sources, [7] scientists have developed a ‘genetically engineered pet’ [1].

The gene behind it all – 
Green Fluorescent Protein Gene

A naturally occurring gene, the green fluorescent protein gene (GFP) [6], derived from marine organisms such as jellyfish and anemones, has been proven to give the normally black and silver zebra fish a brilliantly colored, fluorescent appearance [1]. There are several constructs of the gene that each encode different colored phenotypes, producing differently colored transgenic fish. The GFP gene is isolated and extracted from the gene-donor marine organism and microinjected into the egg of a zebra fish [2]. The gene is then integrated into the genome of the embryo, resulting in the hatching of a fluorescent transgenic (genetically engineered) zebra fish [5]. The foreign genes become a part of the genetic makeup of the newly hatched fish and thus the fluorescent trait will be passed on to future generations through regular breeding [5].

General Procedure of Transgenic Fish

Changing the appearance of an organism is just one of many affects that DNA technologies can have. Since 1985, thirty-five different species of fish have been genetically engineered [3]. Working with fish rather than mammals is advantageous because of the large number of eggs produced by females, out-of-mother embryo development and a lower probability of carrying human pathogens [3]. These advantages have led to active research programs based on fish in many countries for purposes of medical research, food production and advances in genetics [3]. Fish have been particularly beneficial in providing understanding into cellular disease developments, cancer and nicotine addictions [5].

Reference List:
7. Campbell, Reece, Meyers, Urry, Cain, Wasserman, Minorsky & Jackson, 2009, Biology, 8th edn, Pearson Education Australia, New South Wales.

4. Hubmayr, Y 2009, Zebrafish Genetics, Online Magazine, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, viewed 15 March 2012, <>.

2. McKie, R 2003, 'Fluorescent fish' give the green light to GM pets, Electronic Article, Guardian News and Media Limited, viewed 15 March 2012,  

1. Pollack, A 2003, Gene-Altering Revolution Nears the Pet Store: Glow-in-the-Dark Fish, Electronic Article, The New York Times Company, New York, viewed 15 March 2012, <>.

6. Pray, L 2008, Recombinant DNA Technology and Transgenic Animals, Nature Education, viewed 15 March 2012, <>

5. Yorktown Technologies 2010, GloFish: Experience the Glo, Yorktown Technologies, viewed 15 March 2012, <>.

Image Reference List:
3. Hubmayr, Y 2009, Zebrafish Genetics, Online Magazine, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, viewed 15 March 2012, <>.

1. Humans Create Synthetic Life 2010, Science-ology, viewed 15 March 2012, <>.

2. Jogaleka, A 2008, A Many-colored Glass; the Glow of Life and the Joy of Discovery, ScienceBlogs, Germany, viewed 15 March 2012, <>.

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