Your Morning Dose of Cuteness/Technophobia

Maggie Koerth-Baker is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. A freelance science and health journalist, Maggie lives in Minneapolis, brain dumps on Twitter, and writes quite often for mental_floss magazine.

Researchers at Seoul National University in South Korea have successfully made transgenic puppies, according to New Scientist. The baby beagles carry a gene normally found in sea anemones, which means....yes....these fuzzy-wuzzy little puppykins glow in the dark. Thank you, science.

What, you may ask, is the point of a glow-in-the-dark dog? Er, well, this seems to be the point where everybody starts shuffling their feet and staring awkwardly up at the ceiling. One member of the research team says the experiment is basically just a proof-of-concept. What they really want to do is make transgenic dogs that could serve as research models for human disease. But while the other scientists interviewed in the article seem to agree that glowing puppies are a pretty damn awesome accomplishment, they're less convinced on any near-term practical applications of the technology.

New Scientist quotes Greg Barsh, a geneticist at Stanford University who studies dogs as models of human disease:

"I do not know of specific situations where the ability to produce transgenic dogs represents an immediate experimental opportunity,"

And Nathan Sutter, a dog geneticist at Cornell says it's not on his horizon at all, partly because of the expense of making and caring for the dogs...but also because the public still isn't really ready to accept that transgenic puppies won't someday rise up and kill us all.

Oh, well. They're still cute as all get out and way nifty. Go take a look. New Scientist has both "lights on" and "lights off" pictures.

BTW, this team is tangentially related to the guy who turned out to have faked a lot of human cell cloning data. But New Scientist says these puppies (and the cloned dog that came before them) are legit.


  1. Duh
    How about totally NOT tripping over them in the dark?

    -or glowing rescue dogs!

    -carrying…you know…a big glowing cask of, of…rescue…stuff?

  2. There must be an application for glowing dogs…

    Night time walkies with no danger of losing your dog?

    Legitimacy and ethics of the research aside, they are OH SO CYOOT!

  3. #1, I had honestly not considered the pure awesomeness that would be glow-in-the-dark St. Bernards patrolling the Alps.

    I wonder if their drool would glow, too…

  4. The usual reason for making organisms glow is simply to be able to easily tell if a gene splicing technique was successful and the gene product is being expressed. Some times a “glow in the dark” gene and the useful gene being inserted were inserted together– the one gene to do whatever, and the glow one to be fracking obvious.

  5. #4

    No. Basically the glow-in-the-dark thing was a way of making sure their basic method for inserting genes (which involves viruses and is also way cool), works.

    Disease model dogs would have different transgenic genes.

  6. I, for one, welcome our new glow-in-the-dark canine masters. Because they are loaded with both teh cuteness AND teh awesome!

  7. Fluorescent is not glow in the dark, they will only fluoresce under specific wavelengths of light. There aren’t really any single-gene “glow in the dark” genes like that. Most of the glow in the dark stuff requires a pigment and chemical energy source. Whenever they insert a *FP gene, it just does the UV fluorescence stuff.

  8. How long until we see them on the streets?
    I would like one, but having so many stray dogs, we have more than enough here.

  9. Why is it the Koreans who always wind up doing this sort of thing? Didn’t they watch The Host?

    *goes to practice archery*

  10. it shouldn’t matter if there’s no “experimental opportunity.” there can never be too many cute glowwy critters :3

  11. I’m really proud of you guys for not making the easy Korean joke about “does it make the dogs taste better?”.

    Stay classy, Boing Boing.

  12. What use is a glowing dog?

    Well, if you could create a glowing seeing-eye dog, then you’d have instant road-safety for blind people.

    You could also use it for frightening nervous baronets to death:

    Even now in the stillness of death, the huge jaws seemed to be dripping with a bluish flame and the small, deep-set, cruel eyes were ringed with fire. I placed my hand upon the glowing muzzle, and as I held them up my own fingers smouldered and gleamed in the darkness. — “The Hound of the Baskervilles”, Arthur Conan Doyle

  13. I’m very disappointed that these dogs are only glowy under UV light.

    So their only practical application would be in hippys’ trip-out rooms and at dance music festivals?


  14. #7,9: no, not UV.
    They’ll fluoresce under green light. The only way to see one of these dogs “glow in the dark” is to have them in a very dark room, shine green light on them, and view them through a filter that blocks the excitation light. They’ll be very faintly red.
    Sorry, no glowing St. Bernards in the alps…

  15. I thought anemones and other sea creatures glow in the dark due to bacteria residing in them and not through innate abilities. Anemones glow under UV light only if the bacteria are there.

  16. With a slight modification, this could be useful. When walking my dog at night I need to take a torch to find his, err, poop, in order to bag it. If it glowed, it would be so much easier.

  17. Apparently I’m the only one disturbed by this. Why do we consider other species toys for our amusement? Their lives matter to them.

    One of the claims made by vivisection is that experimentation on animals will benefit us by finding cures for disease. Yet no one is able to explain how this would have real world value. As cloning demonstrated, the animal risks suffering unforeseen health problems later in life.

    The notion that the result of this genetic manipulation is cute is yet another example of our inability to see value in life for its own sake and the hubris of humanity to constantly tinker and make changes.

    We create freaks then marvel at our creation, but the result succeeds more at demonstrating how distorted our thinking has become. Simply because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should.

  18. Groucho Marx said, “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

    Not anymore, dear Groucho. Not anymore.

  19. When I first skimmed the headline I read “scientists have successfully made transGENDERED puppies.” I can’t decide if this is better or worse, but I admit I’d like my own glow puppy.

  20. So, how is this the same than cloning and how are the dogs hurt by it? Probably they will have better lives than most of the dogs I deal with, living in my university, begging for food.

  21. Ugh, this shit is insane. I appreciate endeavors in basic research, but someone trying to transgenically modulate a different species to more closely simulate human systems and metabolism is committing rash overkill. There’s already a huge segment of the research community working to replace animal models (because they are pretty uniformly uninformative and of questionable applicability) with human cells and tissues in culture. Bioreactors. In vitro assays. We’re already revolutionizing toxicology (even the FDA finally had to admit this year that it’s testing paradigm is exceedingly stupid and ineffective).

    It’s not cute to have a glowing dog if you get to see the thousands of not-quite-glowing dogs that were purpose bred and euthanized for study. A dog is a dog is a dog.

  22. First of all, virtually every dog breed exists in the first place because me effed around with its genes, not with this level of technology of sophistication, but Bulldogs and Terriers exists only because of selective breeding.

    So, yes, actually, we do view the canine gene pool as our little recreational playpen because someone in 17th century France wanted a dog they could warm up beds with.

    And knowing this authors evil master plan, I am sure there is another genetic modification these scientists made she didn’t mention – NO HAIR.

    Or this poor sick hair hating woman would not have posted it. Do the research on her. It’s frightening.

  23. Isn’t “whimsy” a perfectly acceptable reason?

    I was going to say something like “Someone should tell the Koreans to stop playing with their food,” but that would be a mean stereotype.

  24. I wonder if anyone’s tried using luciferace for these gene splicing experiments rather than ?FP. IIRC, luciferace (derived from fireflies) doesn’t require UV light to fluoresce, instead relying on a chemical reaction to produce its own light. It’d be far more practical for all those “glow-in-the-dark pets” applications you guys are salivating over.

  25. Should have made a dog with tentacles instead of hair. Oh, and the power to turn people into stone.

  26. #28 posted by libraryboi, April 23, 2009 10:18 AM

    “Their lives matter to them.”

    To value one’s own life, you have to be aware that you are alive. Google the mirror test and the evolution of self-awareness. Very few species studied show signs that they know that they exist– in other words, they learn from interactions with their environment and other animals in that environment, including the actions of members of their own species, but most species show no signs of being aware that they, themselves, are a member of their species. Most species short of the apes, for example, do not seem to grasp the concept of empathy– they can’t model how another creature may be thinking or feeling because they apparently lack the concept that they are another example of such a creature. Google the evolution of empathy, too. Dogs certainly know when they are in pain, or experiencing fear, or similar survival traits, but I seriously doubt that dogs know that they are alive, and seriously doubt that they have the least concept of personal death, or that, if they are born one way, there are other possible ways to exist.

    “Yet no one is able to explain how this would have real world value.”

    Are you talking about the “glow in the dark” genes? Both I and someone else explained why they are used. Read the comments.

    We have limited choices if we are going to attempt to increase our knowledge of how living organisms work and how to improve our lives (and if you don’t agree that those are good goals, then you are beyond hope.) We can either experiment on animals, or we can experiment on humans. Which do you think is the lesser evil? (And don’t say computer models– computer models can come only AFTER we understand how animals work from animal studies).

  27. #40 posted by trimeta, April 23, 2009 6:21 PM

    “I wonder if anyone’s tried using luciferace for these gene splicing experiments rather than ?FP.”


    But luciferases works only coupled with luciferins. Plus, the reaction needs oxygen.

    They are produced by genetically engineered organisms, now. No more ability to make cash on the side by catching fireflies, like was true when I was a kid (not that I ever did it.)

    Heck, generations after mine probably have never even heard that researchers used to buy lightning bugs:

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