UH researchers aim to produce cheaper medicine using technique to create glowing bunnies

Courtesy: University of Hawaii's John A. Burns School of Medicine

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In normal lighting, they look just like any other white rabbits. But flip the switch and turn on a black light, and the furry critters glow green.

“These rabbits are like a light bulb glowing, like an LED light all over their body. And on top of it, their fur is beginning to grow and the greenness is shining right through their fur. It’s so intense,” biogenesis researcher Dr. Stefan Moisyadi said.

The transgenic bunnies were born last week at a university in Istanbul, Turkey. But the scientific process behind the glowing wonders started with mice at the University of Hawaii more than a decade ago.

The glowing effect now in rabbits is just proof that the university’s transgenic technique is still successful.

“They live just as long as normal animals do. In mice, I can tell you that from mice, and they show no ill effects,” Dr. Moisyadi said. “The green is only a marker to show that’s it’s working easily.”

It’s similar to dyes that show up in X-rays or MRIs for humans.

To produce the glow, researchers injected fluorescent protein from jellyfish DNA into eight rabbit embryos in a lab. The embryos were then re-inserted into the mother rabbit and two were born with the “glowing gene.”

Dr. Moisyadi says the goal is to eventually produce larger transgenic animals.

“Sheep, cows, and even pigs,” Dr. Moisyadi said. “The benefits in doing it in large animals is to create bio-reactors that basically produce pharmaceuticals that can be made a lot cheaper.”

Dr. Moisyadi says this research could also lead to cures for human illnesses caused by genetic deficiencies.

He hopes to bring the research back to the U.S. But for now, he says he’s being met with red tape.

“At home, there is this hysteria that transgenic animals should not be used for anything,” Dr. Moisyadi said.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of controversy surrounding this. Why are you doing it?” KHON2 asked.

“Because there is an eventual benefit for the human race in this. And if we don’t do it in these first-world countries, where will we do it?” Dr. Moisyadi said.

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