Scientists have created a genetically engineered beagle puppy named Tegon who glows bright green when she is under an ultraviolet light. The puppy will be used by researchers to test new drugs for humans.
Discovery News reported that Tegon is the latest version of a group of genetically modified glowing animals. She joins a red fluorescent puppy named Ruppy and a cat named Mr. Green Genes.
ByeongChun Lee, director of the Seoul National University Hospital for Animals in Korea headed up the team that created Tegon. He said the little beagle differs from the other generations of animals because her entire body glows bright green when she is exposed to UV light and the process can be turned on and off by command.
Lee’s team created Tegon in order to test new drugs for their “effectiveness, toxicology and dosage” before they are given to humans.
Lee also hopes to glowing ability of the puppy will allow researchers to track the course of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
“The creation of Tegon opens new horizons since the gene injected to make the dog glow can be substituted with genes that trigger fatal human diseases,” Lee said in a Global Post story.
The unique beagle was created in a multi-step cloning process. First researchers mixed DNA from a dog gene with a green fluorescent gene from a sea anemone. Next they used a method called Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer to “generate” an embryo. That embryo was placed in a surrogate dog mother who ultimately gave birth to Tegon.
To make the puppy glow, scientists must add a “doxycycline antibiotic” to Tegon’s food and then place her under an ultraviolet light.
The American Anti-Vivisection Society and other animal rights groups have protested the efforts to create genetically modified animals for research, but labs around the world are involved in the growing practice.
Chemyong Jay Ko, an associate professor in the College of Health and Sciences at the University of Kentucky told Discovery News, “Dogs have long been used as one of the prime animal models in the field of medical research.”
Dogs have 268 genetic type illnesses that are similar to humans and they have substantial “physiological and anatomical” similarities. Researchers also like to work with dogs because they have “good communication skills” and are easy to handle.
Dr. Ko thinks glowing cats and dogs may even become popular with pet owners. “The technology could be used for producing a variety of unique cats and dogs, possibly creating a new area of commercial interest.”
If the public decides to embrace this technology, they might want to reflect on little Tegon sitting in a cage inside a lab waiting to be injected with a fatal human disease.