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Ruppy the transgenic puppy at 10 days old. Even under natural light the red protein can be seen in the skin and fur. The next image shows Ruppy under ultraviolet lightPhoto: Byeong Chun Lee
By New Scientist
April 26, 2009
A cloned beagle named Ruppy – short for Ruby Puppy – is the world’s first transgenic dog. She and four other beagles all produce a fluorescent protein that glows red under ultraviolet light.
A team led by Byeong-Chun Lee of Seoul National University in South Korea created the dogs by cloning fibroblast cells that express a red fluorescent gene produced by sea anemones.
Lee and stem cell researcher Woo Suk Hwang were part of a team that created the first cloned dog, SnuppyMovie Camera, in 2005. Much of Hwang’s work on human cells turned out to be fraudulent, but Snuppy was not, an investigation later concluded.
This new proof-of-principle experiment should open the door for transgenic dog models of human disease, says team member CheMyong Ko of the University of Kentucky in Lexington. “The next step for us is to generate a true disease model,” he says.
However, other researchers who study domestic dogs as stand-ins for human disease are less certain that transgenic dogs will become widespread in research.
Dogs already serve as models for diseases such as narcolepsy, certain cancers and blindness. And a dog genome sequence has made the animals an even more useful model by quickening the search for disease-causing genes. Most dog genetics researchers limit their work to gene scans of DNA collected from hundreds of pet owners.
Making a glowing dog
Lee’s team created Ruppy by first infecting dog fibroblast cells with a virus that inserted the fluorescent gene into a cell’s nucleus. They then transferred the fibroblast’s nucleus to another dog’s egg cell, with its nucleus removed. After a few hours dividing in a Petri dish, researchers implanted the cloned embryo into a surrogate mother.
Starting with 344 embryos implanted into 20 dogs, Lee’s team ended up with seven pregnancies. One fetus died about half way through term, while an 11-week-old puppy died of pneumonia after its mother accidentally bit its chest. Five dogs are alive, healthy and starting to spawn their own fluorescent puppies, Ko says.
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