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What's Up With That, Doc? Researchers Make Bunnies Glow

Like cats and other animals before them, a couple of rabbits are now among the animals that have been genetically manipulated so that they glow green under a black light.

Using a technique developed by University of Hawaii medical researchers, scientists in Turkey added a fluorescent protein from jellyfish DNA to a mother rabbit's embryo. Of the eight-bunny litter she produced last week, two have the "glowing gene," the University of Hawaii reports.

As we've explained before, researchers don't do this sort of thing just to produce spooky-looking creatures. "Engineering animals to glow — cats, dogs, fish, sheep, pigs, and monkeys have all been made to do so — has been less an artistic endeavor, and more a burgeoning frontier in genetic research," says The Christian Science Monitor. "Scientists say that the glow is tangible evidence that one animal can be made to accept and use the genes of another. And that, they say, is a sign that it might be possible to use similar advanced techniques to treat genetic diseases."

This work is unlike that of a previous successful "glowing" of a rabbit. CNet News notes that:

"Artist Eduardo Kac used the jellyfish-genetics method to create Alba, a glowing rabbit, back in 2000. However, his was an artistic endeavor rather than a scientific one, as this current batch of buns is.

"The [Turkish and Hawaiian] researchers hope to eventually collect beneficial gene products in protein form through the milk of genetically modified female rabbits in an effort to create an efficient method for medicine production."

Critics have said this kind of medical research should give way to "modern, non-animal alternatives." National Geographic has looked at the history of "beast shining for science," here.

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