Freaky Friday: Scientists genetically modify pigs to glow green under black light

Imagine a world without science. No space exploration, no medicine, no internet and cell phones, not one single Marvel or Star Wars movie, oh the horror.

But, as much as science has changed our lives for the better, one has to wonder, if scientists don’t go a tad too far occasionally.

In 2013, researchers at the South China Agricultural University oversaw the birth of 10 pigs that glow bright green under black light. No, these pigs were not bred because glow in the dark pigs at a rave party will look awesome.

These glow in the dark pigs might make good pets for the Hulk.(Photo credit: Gizmodo)

Rather, these pigs were bred in order to help people with haemophilia and other disorders. For those who don’t know, haemophilia is a hereditary disorder in which blood has a decreased ability to coagulate and clot. This means people with this disorder have a hard time recovering from injuries. They can also spontaneously bleed internally in joints and in the head.

One way to treat haemophilia is through receiving enzymes to help clot blood via blood transfusion. While a facility can be set up to synthesize the enzymes, it is much cheaper and easier to make them inside animals.

Submitting their paper of the pigs to the journal Biology of Reproduction, the researchers show by genetically modifying an animal model to crank out the enzymes will boost production and provide life-saving treatments to those in need.

This makes sense, but do the pigs glow green under a black light? Apparently, the ability to glow comes from green fluorescent protein (GFP). This protein is very commonly used in genetic work.

GFP comes from bioluminescent jellyfish protein and acts as a marker. Doesn’t this cause the pig some form of harm? After all, jellyfish and pigs are two very different species.

It doesn’t harm the pig at all. It merely gives the researchers a very clear visual the genetic modification works, and they reached their intended target. The experimental pigs match their non-glowing counterparts in lifespan.

It will still take several years before the advances can and will be used on humans. However, the experiment does hold a glimmer of hope for those with genetic disorders.

The results of the studies show genetic modification can happen at the embryonic level. Still, the thought of glow in the dark pigs is just not kosher.

Until next time, have yourself a Freaky Friday.

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