By the light of day, the two transgenic baby rabbits look no different from their non-transgenic siblings -- white, fluffy and very cute.
But put the whole litter under a black light, and you’ll know exactly which two bunnies are special. They’ll be glowing bright , fluorescent green.
(For daylight and black-light shots of the transgenic rabbits and their littermates, see the photo gallery above).
The glowing bunnies were born this month in a lab at the University of Istanbul. Scientists at the university gave the rabbits their glow by inserting a gene for a jellyfish protein into their genomes in a process called transgenesis.
The jellyfish protein is invisible by day, but emits a bright green glow when it is exposed to ultraviolet light.
Stefan Moisyadi, an associate professor at the University of Hawaii Manoa who worked with the Turkish team, said the protein does not hurt the rabbits or alter their lifespan. However, the glowing rabbits will pass the jellyfish gene down to their offspring.
Ultimately, the Turkish team would like to do what they have done with the rabbits with larger mammals like sheep and cattle.
“Our main plan was to do sheep, but they only have one or two embryos max,” said Moisyadi. “Right now we have 10 pregnant sheep, and we hope that 25% of the babies glow green -- maybe two or three of them.”
Over time, Moisyadi would like to see this process used in livestock to insert genes for proteins used in medications.
“Animals can make valuable proteins in their milk that humans use for medicine, and you can extract the proteins quite easily,” said Moisyadi. “It would make certain pharmaceutical production extremely cost-effective."