Nevermind the mousetrap, Japanese scientists have built a better mouse. Touted as the world’s first fluorescent mammal, the glow-in-the-dark rodents are the result of a technique that could be a boon to medical researchers.
The first generation of glowing mice - which shine a gleaming green under ultraviolet light - entered the world last week in a western Japan laboratory, where Osaka University geneticists injected mouse embryos with the DNA of a bioluminescent North American jellyfish.
Professor Masaru Okabe and his team started the project four years ago to develop new methods to observe the development of fetuses.
Okabe says researchers will be able to use the technique in a variety of ways, including tracing white blood cells in cancer studies.
“We have also developed the technology to make specific cells glow as markers, so the effects of research can be observed without killing the animals and opening them up,” team member Dr. Shuichi Yamada said.
Yamada said the green mice will be able to pass on their unique characteristic to the next five generations.
Fluorescent rabbits and monkeys may be just around the corner, he said.
Others, however, doubted the importance of the development.
“(The scientists) are just trying to feed their own curiosity,” said Fusako Nogami of the Tokyobased animal protection group ALIVE.
But Yamada is sure the glowing rodents won’t be exploited for one purpose: The researchers have no intention of marketing the mice as glow-in-the-dark pets.