Tuesday, January 31, 2006


I’m trying to think of a reason for this invention, except as a useful night light during a power cut. Scientists in Taiwan have developed green pigs, glow-in-the-dark green pigs, and they don’t just have green hides, they’re green all the way through to their green piggy nuclei.

They were created by adding the DNA of jellyfish to pig embryos, which were implanted in 8 sows, 4 of which got pregnant resulting in a paltry 3 piglets, (which might indicate what the pigs think of the wisdom of this enterprise). In daylight their skin has a decidedly green tinge, and in the dark under a blue light, they glow “torch-light bright”.

There’s something horribly ghoulish about this whole thing, but it’s all in the name of science, the pigs are transgenic, and what a creepy word that is. Transagenics, the science of transferring genetic matter between species, creating those much needed tortoise-daffodil combinations so crucial to the survival of our planet.

It’s a brilliant idea in theory, because by injecting green pig stem cells into ordinary pigs, they can track the movements of the cells through the host’s body. Why stop there, pink elephants will become a reality and not a hangover apparition. A trip to the game reserve will take on a surreal glow. Think of the combinations that can be achieved by judicious gene mixing, cross a dog with a rose, for example, or create the fastest horse in the world with a pinch of cheetah tissue, it all sounds like a B-movie in the making.

This sort of trans species manipulation has been done before in the name of art, a glowing rabbit called Alba was created by artist Eduardo Kac who is PhD research fellow at a University in Wales (where else?). He developed the project to “combine biotechnology, private family life and the social domain of public opinion into a single furry symbol.” The whole thing ended in tears when his collaborators refused to hand over the bunny, and he’s now working on a transgenic dog that at least has the useful function of lighting up the front stoep.

They’re working on other, even more useful applications for this glow in the dark technology, consumer products that we, the average punter, won’t be able to resist: hair mousse, cake frosting, beer and champagne.

Think of the implications - No officer I haven’t been drinking, that’s hair mousse down the front of my shirt.

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