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There are certain truths about animals that we hold evident. Dogs have a great sense of smell, turtles are ninjas, and dinosaurs weren’t killed by handguns. If you’re like me, you would have thought “Sheep don’t glow beneath a black light” to be a truth, and we would have been right a couple of weeks ago.
But that’s all changed, now, thanks to Alejo Menchaca, the veterinarian founder of the animal institute IRAUy, and Martina Crispo of the Pasteur Institute, who have genetically modified nine lambs with the same gene that gives Aequorea victoria jellyfish the green fluorescent protein that makes them glow beneath ultraviolet lights.
These researchers aren’t just into messing with animals for aesthetic reasons however. This particular experiment was a fine-tuning of the process itself, with an end goal of changing medicine forever by altering the genetic make-up of the animals so that particular hormones can be received through the animals’ milk, and can then be passed on to the offspring.
“You chose a gene of certain interest as for example the one responsible for the human growth hormone in humans,” says Menchaca. “You add it to a cow, sheep, goat embryo and the animal incorporates it to its DNA. In the future the calf, lamb or baby-goat is going to produce milk with the growth hormone.” The milk would then be put through a protein-isolating process and then applied towards an applicable medicine.
Not that it will help cool the heads of those who hold animals on a higher pedestal than humans, but the sheep aren’t suffering at all, and are exactly the same health-wise other than the glow.
“They are out in the field as any other sheep, but in better conditions, not the traditional breeding system. They are well looked after, well fed and very much loved,” said Menchaca. Take a look at a brief news video about the groovy sheep below and marvel and its lamb-inescence.