A fluorescent green mother pig has recently given birth to eleven piglets, two of which also glow green under ultra-violet light like their mother.
Source: Asian News Photo
The birth of the green pigs shows that genetically altered pigs are fertile and can pass on their engineered traits to their young. The mother pig was born in December 2006 after scientists injected the embryo with fluorescent green protein.
One day, the development could lead to the breeding of pigs for human transplant organs, explain the researchers from Northeast Agricultural University in Beijing. Pigs hearts, for example, are similar to those of humans in terms of size, shape, and structure. Currently, doctors use pig heart valves in human heart surgery, after being stripped of their tissue to prevent rejection by the human immune system.
Organ and tissue rejection is one of the major challenges of transplants, but genetically modified animals could be bred that contain organs and tissues that won't be rejected by humans' immune systems. But breeding the fluorescent pigs is just a first step: the researchers manipulated just one gene to make the pigs fluorescent, while there are 20,000 other genes that need to be investigated for medical applications.
The two newborn fluorescent pigs are not completely green, but rather have patches of the color on their snot, trotters, and tongue. The researchers plan to breed them with another batch of fluorescent piglets that are expected to be born soon. Hopefully, the third generation will be more fluorescent.
For Yin Zhi, the birth was quite an accomplishment.
"I don't have kids, but it must be like becoming a dad for the first time," he said proudly.