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Using an active transgenesis technique founded by medical researchers at the University of Hawaiʻi Mānoa, scientists in Turkey have produced glowing green rabbits. This is the first time the UH technique has been used to produce rabbits.

The transgenic rabbits were born last week at the University of Istanbul. In normal lighting, they look just like their furry, white rabbit siblings. But when exposed to black light, the pair of transgenic bunnies shines a vivid shade of green.

The glowing effect is the result of a fluorescent protein from jellyfish DNA, which was injected into the mother rabbit’s embryo in the lab. The altered embryos were re-inserted into the mother rabbit, and when the litter of eight was born, two of the rabbits carried the “glowing gene.” That is a higher percentage rate than previously achieved in rabbits.

The point of the experiment was to show that genetic manipulation with the University of Hawaiʻi’s technique works efficiently in rabbits. The overall goal is to introduce a beneficial gene into female rabbits, then to collect the protein made in the milk produced by the female rabbits. This approach could lead to new and competitively efficient ways to produce medicines.

The Turkish success was collaboration between two universities in Turkey and the UH Mānoa Institute for Biogenesis Research at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

The background of project rabbit

Emeritus Professor Ryuzo Yanagimachi and Associate Professor Stefan Moisyadi travelled to Istanbul in November 2011 to set up the collaboration with the University of Istanbul and Marmara University.

Yanagimachi, the founder of the IBR, is recognized around the world as the scientist whose early work with animals laid the foundation for the development of in vitro fertilization in humans. He also invented a laboratory technique for inserting sperm into an egg, a method that is now used in fertility clinics everywhere. Yanagimachi produced the world’s first cloned mouse and was the first to use his sperm injection technique to produce transgenic mice.

To assist with hands-on teaching of the technique, Moisyadi returned to Istanbul this past June with IBR Transgenic Facility Director Joel Marh.

“Our colleagues in Turkey have been so excited by the birth of the transgenic rabbits and that excitement has spread to the public through news coverage on Turkish television,” said Moisyadi. “It’s been wonderful to see this international scientific collaboration produce such positive results.”

What’s coming next?

The Turkey-Hawaiʻi team also has worked on producing transgenic sheep. Three months from now, in November, the birth of Turkey’s first transgenic lamb is expected. The IBR team has already collaborated with China to produce transgenic pigs.

A John A. Burns School of Medicine news release

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