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Rabbits that glow in the dark can lead to animals that produce low-cost human medication

glow-bunniesSome people will think that rabbits which glow green in the dark are cute, while undoubtedly others will recoil in horror at yet another human interference with ‘nature.’  Without doubt the heir to the UK throne will be in the latter group, yet these animals have a very serious purpose, one that could be a great boon to humankind.  The animals, genetically engineered to incorporate genes from luminous sea jellies, are not the first to have luminosity incorporated into their DNA.  These ones, part of a joint project by universities in Turkey and Hawaii, are designed to test techniques to be used in generating animals that can aid human medicine.  The aim is to produce animals whose milk contains human medication.  Already we have drugs that are purified from the milk of transgenic goats, and the scientists are looking at animals that might produce blood-clotting enzymes to treat haemophiliacs, and transgenic goats whose milk contains an anti-malarial vaccine.

The economic significance is that such production methods will be cheaper than building giant pharmaceutical plants, and will give poorer countries access to relatively low cost and low tech treatment.  Once it has been established that the inserted characteristic is being passed on to fertile offspring, large numbers of the animals can be bred to combat in affordable ways some of the diseases that afflict those in poorer countries.  It will be interesting to watch environmentalists condemning people in poor countries to continued suffering and death because they find the idea of genetic modification distasteful.

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