Green-glowing marmosets

These are the hands of a marmoset, genetically engineered to glow green under ultraviolet light. The transgenic marmosets aren't the first primates to glow but are apparently the first that pass the genetic modification down to their offspring. The green-glowing marmosets, and other transgenic animals that glow, are used by scientists to gain insight into genetic diseases. Of course, some people aren't too thrilled with this kind of genetic engineering. In fact, tech-artist Eduardo Kac explored some of these hot topics with Alba, his "GFP Bunny" created in 2000. From the BBC News:
 Media Images 45831000 Jpg  45831411 Fig1A Erika Sasaki of the Central Institute for Experimental Animals in Japan, and her colleagues, have introduced a gene into marmoset embryos that allows them to build green fluorescent protein (GFP) in their tissues.

The protein is so-called because it glows green in a process known as fluorescence.

GFP was originally isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, which glows green when exposed to blue light.

The protein has become a standard in biology and genetic engineering, and its discovery even warranted a Nobel prize.

From 91 embryos, a total of five GFP-enabled transgenic marmosets were born, including twins Kei and Kou ("keikou" is Japanese for "fluorescence").

Crucially, the team was able to show that their method is maintained in the family - or germline.
Glowing monkeys 'to aid research' (Thanks, Antinous!)


  1. I think this is great. I hate it when those damn marmosets sneak up and surprise me in the dark. Also, you could attach one to your keyring, making it easier to find in the dark.

  2. “…build green fluorescent protein (GFP) in their tissues.”

    “The protein is so-called because it glows green in a process known as fluorescence. ”

    Did they include the second sentence for those who skipped reading the first?

  3. “the first that pass the genetic modification down to their offspring”

    Can’t remember where I read it, but didn’t some dogs do the same recently?

    @3 Chimps don’t possess the tongue control to be able to speak.

  4. I heard about this on NPR the other day. I think the thing the scientists were most interested in was that the gene is passed on when the marmosets breed.

  5. The story’s right — GFP glows green under *blue* light, not ultraviolet light. The difference is important because ultraviolet light of any serious intensity would be damaging and inhumane.

  6. @MartianTrailer: “Saw a news article recently where scientists were able to put a human gene related to speech into a mouse…”
    …who turned to the scientist and said “Dude! This water is stale, and has poop in it, the food here is crap, could we get some fresh fruit? I’m constipated, my junk is itchy, there’s nothing to do, can we get a chick in here? An exercise wheel? This cage stinks. Lemme out of here, you four-eyed squinty nerd! I got fleas from that jerk in the next cage that spends all night masterbating, and could you turn the lights out at night? I need a phone in here, an Ipod, lemme give you a list of CD’s I need…”

    Celebrating their amazing success, the scientists mistakenly induced throat cancer into that specific specimen.

  7. I am hoping they find a way to integrate the “Clapperâ„¢” gene so you can turn the marmosets on and off without getting up from your lab.

  8. 6 POSTED BY ANONYMOUS, MAY 28, 2009 5:15 PM

    @3 Chimps don’t possess the tongue control to be able to speak.

    Maybe they would if they got the right genetic mod. Maybe even just the brain changes from the genes the mouse got?

  9. Saw a news article recently where scientists were able to put a human gene related to speech into a mouse …

    Who then said: “Pinky, are you thinking what I’m thinking?”

    Glowing green marmosets? Meh, tell me when they make glowing Raptors.

  10. Also, let’s not forget – let’s not forget, Dude – that keeping wildlife, an amphibious rodent, for uh, domestic, you know, within the city – that ain’t legal either.

  11. Oh wait- like a copybara- not necessarily an amphibian. Okay, Nevermind.
    Coppy, come here, boy! Wanna snuggle-wuggle?

  12. “I for one welcome our transgenic, green-glowing, germline-potent simian overlords?”

    Or is that meme dead already?

  13. I’ve heard on the news that this has proved “controversial” and that some people “object”, but they never mention how, who or why.

    I mean, what are the objections beyond “It’s stuff I don’t understand and I think it’s ICKY!”?

  14. I am very much for animal experimentation, but there are very good reasons for not experimenting with chimpanzees. They have self awareness, they can understand many things, they are very close to us in the continuum of sentience.

    I support the Great Ape Project (, even if I am comfortable with experimentation with mice. In an ideal world, tissue culture and software would allow us to bypass this, but biology is tricky.

  15. @3 & @6

    The gene they put into mice you are talking about is called FOX3P

    It essentially is the gene that gives us fine motor control over our lips and tongue. With that extra control we get extra growth in the language centers of our brain.

  16. #16 – Were you aware that there are only two instances where P&TB *were* pondering the same thing? Once when Pinky had been made temporarily superintelligent, and once when they were both pondering how unlikely it was that they were pondering the same thing…

  17. Chimpanzees? Uh- did you never see Planet Of The Apes? Is it a prophesy we want to fulfill??

    Now zombies, sure! If they glowed in the dark they couldn’t surprise us in the dark, and they’d be easy to recognize and pick off. Actually, it would be simple to do: when someone dies, they are enbalmed, then sprayed with glow-in-the-dark paint. Bango!

  18. #26 – I remember the superintelligent Pinky episode, but now I’ll have to keep an eye out for the other one. Thanks!

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