Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Glow in the dark cats?

Well, not really glow in the dark, but glow in the UV cats. Gyeongsang National University in Jinju, South Gyeongsang Province released the picture and information about the cloning process used to modify the genes in a cat to create a red glow under UV light. It's a proof of concept to display the ability to modify genes by using a virus. According to the article, one of the cats died during a caesarian section operation, and on examination, all of the organs were affected by the modified protien.

Now comes the ethical question. Should this kind of research, genetic modification be banned? If it can be done without causing suffering or pain in animals, should it be allowed, or are there other grounds which would restrict this kind of research?

1 comment:

Megan Watland said...

"If it can be done without causing suffering or pain in animals, should it be allowed, or are there other grounds which would restrict this kind of research?"

Sure, there are lots of reasons that this research might not be considered ethical. IACUC protocols are a good place to start when addressing animal use questions.

-will the results of this research change our knowledge base, or simply add to what we already know?
-could they have used a species slightly lower down on the evolutionary tree (i.e. the ever-popular nematode C. elegans)?
-did they use the smallest number of animals possible to achieve statistically significant results?
-were the environmental impacts of this research adequately researched? Not as in are they recycling, but are the protecting the environment outside the lab from contamination with the altered protein products. Like, what did they do with that dead kitten? What do they do with the waste material of the live cats? Did they consider the potential dangers of handling this virally-altered protein?

The biggest current concern with any GMO animals (or plants) is that, while we can use markers to see if the gene we wanted to alter was actually altered (i.e. the nice phenotypic change we can observe in these kitties), technology isn't currently fast/cheap/accurate enough to be able to tell what other genes were altered along the way. It doesn't bother me so much in lab-bound cats, but I don't really care for it in food...