Chinese researchers get green-glowing sows to give birth to viable verdant offspring

by Craig Weatherby

You've probably heard the expression “when pigs fly.” And until 2006, it would have been just as appropriate to refer to a highly improbable event as occurring “when pigs glow green.”

Two years ago, scientists in Taiwan bred pigs to contain fluorescent protein compounds that glow under ultra violet (UV) lights.

They took DNA from jellyfish, which tells cells to produce fluorescent green proteins, and added it to pig embryos.

In daylight, the pigs' eyes, teeth, and hooves look green, while their skin has a greenish tinge.

In the dark, they glow bright green when exposed to a UV light. In other words, these pigs are living, 3-D black-light posters… groovy, man.

(It's probably a good thing that day-glo pigs weren't developed in the late 1960's, or Timothy Leary might have bred psychedelic pets.)

Chinese one-up their Taiwanese rivals

Recently scientists in the city of Harbin, China went the Taiwanese one better, by getting a green pig to pass the trait on to its young… a development that could lead to breeding of pigs for human transplant organs.

The fact that the pig's offspring also appeared to have the green genes would indicate that the genetic modification had successfully penetrated every cell.

The scientists will use the transgenic pigs to study human disease. Because the pig's genetic material encodes a protein that shows up as green, it is easy to spot.

For example, the presence of the green protein would allow genetically modified cells to be tracked if they were transplanted into a human.

In a news release posted on the web site of Northeast Agricultural University, Professor Liu Zhonghua said that “Continued development of this technology can be applied to the production of special pigs for organs for human transplant.”

It seems that now we can have green ham with some of Dr. Seuss' famous green eggs. Yum.