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Green-Glowing Gene Heralds a Better Research Monkey

'Transgenic' primates can pass along clues to human disease in their DNA, scientists explain

WEDNESDAY, May 27, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Monkeys that have a gene encoding green fluorescent protein in their DNA will prove valuable in developing new ways to study human diseases, according to researchers who developed the "transgenic" line of monkeys.

The scientists used viral DNA as a way to introduce the gene for green fluorescent protein into the DNA of the common marmoset Callithrix jacchus. The gene integrated into the monkeys' DNA and was successfully passed down to their offspring. This is the first time this has been accomplished in non-human primates, the researchers note in a news release.

The study findings are published this week in the journal Nature.

Transgenic mice - which carry genetic material artificially introduced from another species -- have helped scientists achieve great advances in biomedical research, according to background information provided in the news release. However, mice are too dissimilar from humans for mouse-based results to have meaningful results for many human diseases.

On the other hand, transgenic monkeys hold great promise for the study of many kinds of human diseases, particularly neurological disorders, for which there are currently no appropriate experimental models, explained study author Erika Sasaki, of the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Kawasaki, Japan, and colleagues.

Last year, scientists reported the first transgenic monkeys that were developed to help researchers study Huntington's disease. But in that case, the gene didn't fully integrate into the monkey's DNA and wasn't passed down to their offspring.

More information

Biologist John W. Kimball explains transgenic animals.

SOURCE: Nature, news release, May 27, 2009
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