Fake Banner
    Glow-In-The-Dark Kittens (and Monkeys! And Ovaries!)
    By Alex "Sandy" Antunes | September 25th 2011 05:43 PM | 4 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Alex "Sandy"

    Read more about the strange modern world of a day laborer in astronomy, plus extra space science-y goodness....

    View Alex "Sandy"'s Profile
    I don't want to sound alarmist, but glow-in-the-dark animals are real-- and it's not just cute kitty-cats.  As reported earlier here at Science 2.0, scientists did this and that to genetics to make AIDS-resistant cats.  Part of the process includes splicing in jellyfish DNA so the cats glow in the dark.

    Yes, not 'they glow because of the medical reason', they glow for the fun of it.  They glow because the scientists wanted to track the progress of the other stuff, the real medical stuff they were doing.

    they glow!It turns out jellyfish DNA for glow-in-the-dark is like the corn syrup of the gene-splicing world.  It's not just cats, it's in everything.

    It's called GFP, for Green Fluorescent Protein.  We've got glowing mice, glowing rabbits, even glowing pigs.

    Did I mention the glowing pig research was done with an eye towards organ harvesting for humans?  It's a great plan.  Not only do you have a glowing, cute pet that is easy to spot in the dark, but you can use it if you need a spare kidney.

    Eleven years ago, they even made glowing E. coli, perhaps handy if you're curious if your meat is tainted.

    Fluorescent fish aren't terribly new, but genetically manipulated GloFish uses GFP.

    Oh, and glowing monkeys.  As in, primates.  Similar to use.  But they'd never use this for humans, right?

    And the obvious use of GFP for humans is to create glow in the dark tattoos.  The ones that exist now using cancer-causing illegal chemicals.  But imagine if you could just genetically engineer yourself to glow as you want?  Want your cancer to glow in the dark, so a doctor can more easily remove it?  Chemically induced florescence via fluorescein or a similar chemical can do it.  So yes, we can glow too.

    One might think I'm expressing outrage, but I think this is way cooler than making genetically 'superior' tasteless tomatos and other GMO foods.  I look forward to the day when the phrase "she's so radiant" is no longer figurative.

    Until next week,

    Tuesdays at The Satellite Diaries and Friday at The Daytime Astronomer (twitter @skyday)


    Because I'm too lazy to do the research myself, are those pictures from an actual publication about the creation of the transgenic GFP cats?

    Because I've worked with GFP mice, and that top photo looks like a non-GFP cat to me. With the mice I worked with, at least, the hair doesn't fluoresce, and in the top photo, the only apparently "glowing" part of the cat is the white fur, which to me means that's simply reflected, filtered light from the UV light source. In contrast, the skin and eyeballs of my mice glowed green (again, under UV light), while the cat's eyes and skin don't deem to have much glow to them.

    That being said, we did try to take photos of our mice and, not being professional/experienced photographers, especially in the realm of UV photography, we did have trouble getting decent pictures. So I'm guessing these are either "the best we could do" photos, or they've been "enhanced" to appease the public who, when they hear "glowing cat," want to see just that, and not a photo of what they actually look like (which, in normal light, is probably like every other cat, and in UV is like every other cat except with a green tinge to any exposed skin, which, on a cat, is not much).

    Because I, as it happens, am too lazy to make my own photos, I used the photos distributed with the original article.  I suspect they are using toxic levels of UV and some image 'cleanup' (enhancement) to get that much glow.

    A search on google for 'GFP cat' yielded this awesome set of cat- and non-cat images, below.  I like the lizards, myself.

    GFP images from google search
    So when and where can I buy one? Though it would be at a disadvantage for night time romping with my other cats. The Glofish are great but my ability to keep fish alive is lacking so I wouldn't attempt it. But speaking of tattoos I would love to see something like this come out:


    Even better would be if it could show me my blood pressure and other vital signs. I am so bad about keeping records for my doctor and if I could just transmit mit them via this method it would be amazing. Sorry for the tangent, but I enjoyed the pictures of all the glow in the dark animals and look forward to any medical advances this may head towards.

    -- James Ph. Kotsybar

    When the general public hears about
    A breakthrough in scientific research
    They want to add their voices to the shout,
    So as not to feel they’re left in the lurch.
    That they have opinions, there is no doubt.

    They’ll foist themselves into the dialogue,
    When something sensational’s put in print.
    Though their comments reveal they’re in a fog
    Without having the slightest clue or hint,
    It won’t prevent them posting to the blog.

    Most often, all they can add is their moan:
    “Why can’t science leave well-enough alone?”