Meet Mr Green Genes, under normal light – ginger tabby cat. Switch off the light and turn on the infrared and Mr Green
Genes glows green.
The six-month old cat has been genetically engineered by scientists at the Audubon Centre for Research of Endangered Species in New Orleans. They have taken a section of jelly fish DNA and inserted it into the cat’s genetic material or genome. Having DNA from another species in his genome makes Mr Green Genes a transgenic cat.
The DNA sequence or gene, which encodes the green fluorescent protein (GFP) was first isolated from a jellyfish (Aequorea victoria) in 1962 by Osamu Shimomura. Shimomura shared this year’s Nobel Prize for chemistry with Martin Chalfie, Roger Tsien and for work relating to GFP.
The reason a cat was used in this experiment was that feline genome is similar to the human one. The green glow in itself is not important, but when the GFP gene is linked with other genes, researchers can tell if the linked gene has been integrated into the target genome by looking for the green glow. Hopefully, Mr Green Genes is a step on the path to developing cures for diseases caused by genetic defects such as cystic fibrosis.
Sharon Doty, an assistant professor of forest resources at Washington University, presented a paper to the US National Academy of Sciences detailing the creation of genetically modified (GM) poplar plants. These plants have the ability to break down several known cancer causing pollutants, a process known as phytoremediation.
The poplar plants are able to take as much as 91 percent of trichloroethylene out of a liquid solution. Trichloroethylene is the most common contaminant at U.S. Superfund sites where it has leaked into ground water due improper disposal.
Normal poplar plants break down trichloroethylene into harmless salt. The GM version does this a lot faster. This is achieved this by the insertion of a rabbit gene into the plants. Doty said, “Using the mammalian gene is just a step toward the day when we better understand the poplar genes.” She eventually hopes to devise a way to use the plant’s own genes to achieve similar results.
Doty and her colleagues believe poplars address concerns that transgenic genes might escape to regular forests.
As Uwnews.org explains:
Poplars are fast growing and can grow for several years without flowering, at which time they could be harvested to prevent seeds from generating. Branches of the hybrid poplar do not take root in soils when branches fall to the ground.
The researchers plan further experiments to look at what happens when the trees are grown in soil. They are still some way from full scale field tests. In their paper they note, “Commercial use of these trees requires federal regulatory approval and monitoring, and regulations are becoming increasingly strict for transgenic plants.” Said Doty, “Our ultimate goal is to provide a more rapid way to reduce the amount of carcinogens, one that is affordable so many sites can be treated.
The Work has been funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy. Co-authors of the paper are from the UW, Oregon State University and Purdue University.
* Image licensed as Creative Commons, Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 by ynse on Flickr